by Carol Dunn
LA VETA- The elected officials of Huerfano County met on Monday and talked about the future of the County emergency dispatch services. Two issues face the government officials: poor quality of dispatches received by La Veta fire and rescue personnel; and the overwhelming expense of maintaining the dispatch center. With talk of hiring a director of dispatch services, costs, estimated now at $330,000 to $350,000, could reach the point where none of the government agencies can afford them.
After the group listened to a page from dispatch services, La Veta Mayor Mickey Schmidt voiced his frustration with the continued poor dispatch quality. “We need to make a decision here and now to put a repeater on the mesa to fix the current dispatch problem for La Veta,” he said. The group, which has suffered through discussions about this for many months, agreed, and the proposal for the $5,000 to $7,000 repeater will be presented to the 911 Board later this month.
Regarding the cost of maintaining dispatch services, there are three options available. If one agency, for instance the County, takes responsibility, then the other municipalities will need to pay their share on a per-call basis. This point is not lost on the City of Walsenburg. City Administrator Eric Pearson suggested, “Maybe we can debate if there is some compromise for this year. Walsenburg has been subsidizing this heavily.” Mayor Schmidt pointed out that funding to pay per-call charges would need to be reallocated from current budgets. Long term, funds would need to be raised through additional taxes. Therefore, option two, a possible increase in a county-wide sales tax, was discussed. Although reticent to propose an increase in taxes, the group has few alternatives. The last option would be to outsource dispatch services to Pueblo or Trinidad.
All three options will be researched by committees in an expedient manner and discussed at the next meeting.