PASCO -- A state study on consolidating 911 services may help Benton and Franklin counties decide whether they should fuse together emergency dispatch centers.
Franklin County commissioners unanimously approved Wednesday a memorandum of understanding with Benton County that would allow the state to pay for the study.
The cities, counties and fire districts in Benton and Franklin counties have been discussing combining Franklin County's dispatch center and SECOMM, or Southeast Communications Center.
A recent study by eGov Consulting suggested joining the two dispatch centers and BIPIN, or the Bicounty Police Information Network, could save thousands of dollars and improve services.
The state has $130,000 for the 911 study, but Franklin County Communications Director Ed Bush said that amount could be more depending on what happens with the supplemental budget.
The state-funded study would specifically focus on 911 and would not be a repeat of the analysis done by e-Gov Consulting, according to officials.
The state may even help pay for facility upgrades needed if the centers do merge, Bush said.
Benton County has not yet signed the agreement, but Bush said commissioners have discussed it and may sign it in the next week.
At the same time, the city of Richland is circulating a nonbinding resolution of support for further consideration of consolidation. However, commissioners postponed signing the resolution.
Pasco Fire Chief Bob Gear said after the last meeting with eGov held in October, those present felt a need to see who was interested in pursuing the idea. Richland, the lead for the ended e-Gov contract, offered to receive responses from the government entities on who will participate in a continued look at blending dispatch services.
The biggest impact identified in the eGov study was an increase in costs for fire and emergency service agencies in Franklin County, Gear said. But the consultants just suggested a method, and the actual costs are still unknown.
* Kristi Pihl: 509-582-1512; email@example.com