Pasco City Council members put their support Monday behind the eventual regionalization of an emergency communications system.
Mayor Matt Watkins said this collaboration is important not only for Pasco or Franklin County, but all five jurisdictions that will be tied in to one 911 call center with the same radio network.
He said he hopes it leads to better and quicker communications for all 911 situations.
Watkins and five colleagues unanimously approved the agreement. Councilman Al Yenney had an excused absence from the meeting.
The idea of joining the dispatch systems in Benton and Franklin counties has been discussed for a few years. One study -- by the consulting firm eGov -- suggested regionalization could save money and improve services.
Under the new pact, a consultant would be hired using a state grant to help design a regionalization plan. The process would include putting together a cost-benefit analysis and a government structure for operations.
A final decision about whether to move forward would come after the plan lays out details. If the process moved forward, complete migration to a regional system could happen by the end of 2014.
City Manager Gary Crutchfield compared it to an engagement, and all parties are trying to work out their prenuptial agreement before moving toward the final marriage. He said with a single "public safety answering point," dispatchers shouldn't have problems getting a location when someone dials 911 from a cell phone and no longer should lose emergency calls because of the intricacies of the system.
It will result in improved safety for both citizens and emergency responders, Crutchfield said.
Benton County officials had reservations about the pact, namely that they felt it committed the jurisdictions to a merger. Some of the language was softened, and county commissioners last month signed off on a draft in a split vote. They're scheduled to consider the final version today.
The Kennewick City Council also is scheduled to vote on the pact tonight. Richland City Council members approved it last week.
Crutchfield said Franklin County commissioners should be voting on the agreement this week or next. It is not on their tentative agenda for Wednesday.
w Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @KristinMKraemer