Pasco police and the Franklin County sheriff disagree on whether an agreement has been reached on a new bi-county 911 dispatch system.
The sheriff's office sent out a news release Monday saying that the city resolved a long-running dispute by agreeing to pay the $5,000 cost of making Franklin County's dispatch center capable of communicating with an 800 megahertz radio system, which Benton County uses. But police said no such deal took place.
Sheriff Richard Lathim approved the request and plans to order the equipment needed to make the change at the dispatch center, though he told the Herald he wasn't sure how long it would take to get it in place.
"We'll do what needs to be done on our side," he said. "They still need to do some stuff on the Benton County side."
The county has been willing to install a way to communicate with the 800 megahertz system all along if the city would pay for it, Lathim said. The county uses a VHF radio system, and Lathim said 800 megahertz would not work well in parts of Franklin County.
But changing the system over is not as simple as paying $5,000, said Pasco Police Capt. Jim Raymond.
"There has been no agreement, no payment," said Raymond, who is also Lathim's opponent in the upcoming election. "No one seems to know where this is coming from."
Police Chief Bob Metzger could not be reached for comment Monday.
The agreement was made after the Tri-City Fraternal Order of Police made a request for all local agencies to work together on the issue, according to the news release.
The two counties and the cities of Pasco, Kennewick and Richland have been working on a new $9.4 million system that would give them a common dispatch center. The two counties each have their own dispatch centers and the differing systems have been blamed for problems like misdirected 911 calls.
A standoff last month in Pasco highlighted the differences. A man fired dozens of rounds, but Benton County officers who rushed across the river to help could not communicate with Pasco police as they arrived on the scene. Some ended up in the line of fire and a Kennewick officer was almost shot.
An interlocal agreement is in the works to create a new system called the Multi-Agency Three Rivers Information and Communication Services, or MATRICS.
Adding the ability to communicate with Benton County's 800 megahertz radios would not impact Franklin County's VHF system, Lathim said. He has criticized 800 megahertz for having gaps in service area in northern parts of the county.
"It's just like adding another channel," he said. "Everything we've had we still have."
Pasco police want to go to an 800 megahertz system in the city. Metzger has said it is superior in urban areas.
Raymond would like to take the 800 megahertz system county-wide if he is elected sheriff, he said.
"It does appear it will work with some infrastructure improvements," he said. "But you have to look at those costs too."
-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom