In late October Mayor Tom Carver wrote a letter to Sheriff Dave Resser seeking information about the services provided by Benewah County to the city of St. Maries. Two weeks ago, Sheriff Resser provided a three-page letter with the information.
And something Mayor Carver had not requested; a big jump in dispatch fees.
Sheriff Resser proposed that the city of St. Maries pay for three dispatchers, at a cost of about $146,000 annually. That is double what the city pays now. Under the current agreement, the city pays the cost of 1 ½ dispatchers.
The proposal leaves the sheriff and the mayor at odds.
Mayor Carver previously said the city would not pay anything for dispatch services.
“I feel the city of St. Maries is already paying for those services through their taxes,” said in an interview in October.
Sheriff Resser said the county is not obligated to provide the city dispatch services.
“We only have to provide dispatch for emergency calls, which we will continue to do,” Sheriff Resser said.
While Mayor Carver believes the county should provide the service at no cost, Brian Thie, county prosecutor, said Sheriff Resser is right.
Mr. Thie said the sheriff must provide dispatch for emergency calls and cited calls about a crime in progress and fire calls as examples. Non-emergency calls, such as traffic enforcement, warrant checks, driver’s license check would not be required.
Any municipality within the county that wants additional law enforcement activity, for example additional patrols, local ordinance enforcement, or faster response times, above that which is provided at the county wide level may do so, and make provisions for non-emergency dispatch services as it deems necessary. The county is under no obligation to provide such services,” Mr. Thie wrote in a press release. “In other words, if a municipality wants to provide additional law enforcement within its jurisdiction, it must pay for all the necessary and associated costs, not just the salaries and benefits of the additional law enforcement officers. Non-emergency dispatch, building space, heat, telephone, automobiles, record retention, and evidence collection and storage, are just a few of those items.”
The vast majority of work done at the dispatch center are for non-emergency calls.
Sheriff Resser cited the cost of operating the county dispatch center as reason for seeking an increase in fees paid by the city.
“The city saves a lot of money by contracting with us to provide dispatch,” Sheriff Resser said.
He estimated the city would spend a minimum of $320,000 annually to staff a dispatch center.
“That does not include at least $500,000 in equipment to start a dispatch center and several different licensing and software fees paid annually,” he said in his letter.
In his letter Sheriff Resser said he would “be happy to assist you in any way I can” if the city opts to open its own dispatch center.
The disagreement over dispatch fees comes on the heels of a recent dustup between the city and the sheriff’s office over law enforcement in the city.
In August Mayor Carver questioned whether the city receives the police coverage for which it pays.
The city pays the county $270,000 for police coverage. The contract stipulates a deputy is assigned to city patrol 16 hours a day.
“I don’t think we are getting what we are paying for,” Mayor Carver said in an August interview.
Sheriff Resser said the city is getting the coverage, but Mayor Carver remained unconvinced. The issue does not appear to be resolved.
Sheriff Resser said he has not heard from the city since his letter seeking an increase in dispatch fees was delivered.
Phone calls to Mayor Carver were not returned.