In a recent letter to the Benewah County Sheriff’s Office the mayor of St. Maries proposed that the county charge dispatch fees to all entities that use the service based on the number of calls to or from that entity.
Mayor Tom Carver has previously questioned why other entities in the county do not pay for dispatch service. In particular, the Plummer Police Department and the St. Maries Fire Department. Former Sheriff Dave Resser said that it was the system inherited when he took office.
Plummer pays $0 in dispatch fees to the county for services used by the Plummer City Police Department. Currently, St. Maries pays $2,792.72 per month as part of the contract for services with the Benewah County Sheriff’s Office.
The BCSO also charges St. Maries Ambulance approximately $6,000 in dispatch fees to the county. However, that contributes to the $33,512.64 that the city already pays. Those amounts also reflect an approximately 50 percent cut in fees charged to the city as of 2019.
From 2007 to 2011, the BCSO charged the Coeur d’Alene Tribe $161,000 for 4-years. The Tribe paid $41,471 for three years and purchase one patrol vehicle for the county valued at $36,585. That deal expired in 2011, and the Tribe chose to partner with Kootenai County for dispatch services.
To get an idea of usage, in 2015, the most recent period for which St. Maries and Plummer both had police departments, St. Maries used the service more than four times as much Plummer. Log data from the Benewah County Dispatch Center, which shows all dispatch activity between various departments, shows that the city of St. Maries Police Department used the service 22,068 times in 2015. That same year, the Plummer Police Department used the service 6,303 times.
Total use by all entities in both cities, for 2015, narrows the usage gap. All Plummer agencies used dispatch services 9,794 times. That is approximately one third as often as St. Maries agencies, which used the service 27,310 times. Dispatch handled a total of 113,274 interactions throughout the county, approximately 73,049 of which were by the sheriff’s office.
The exact cost to run dispatch is not specified in the BCSO budget. However, the wage cost is $350,000 and do not include equipment, benefits and other costs for running the service. Benefits for the entire sheriff’s office total $926,056.00.
The $33,512.64 in fees paid by St. Maries pays approximately 10 percent of the dispatch salary budget. In other words, St. Maries made up approximately 25 percent of dispatch usage, but pays less than 10 percent of the total cost of the service.
Using the wage budget as the basis, if St. Maries paid for 25 percent of usage dispatch fees would be approximately $87,500. Plummer would pay approximately $31,500 for making up slightly less than 9 percent of use.
To truly bill each entity, in 2020, the BCSO would need to charge 24 entities including state agencies, other counties, the county coroner and PotlatchDeltic.
Call data for 2020 for each agency shows that entities other than Plummer and St. Maries use the service substantially less. Four agencies utilized dispatch for one call. UpRiver Ambulance used the service for 116 calls. No other agency used the service for more than 45 calls. Fourteen used the service fewer than 20 times.