After debating a hefty price increase for eight months, the Morgan County Council decided to continue running 911 dispatch services through Weber County, for now. The council unanimously agreed this month to sign a new two-year contract that will carry a $286,000 annual price tag increase, but noted the 180-day notification opt-out clause.
Councilman Ned Mecham said he would continue shopping around for a better deal and negotiating with Davis County. Mecham said switching over to Davis County could save Morgan $240,000 each year.
“I would be derelict in my duty to the citizens not to get another bid,” said Mecham, who noted that in Morgan County, any expenditure over $5,000 requires three bids. He said he has concluded collecting five years’ worth of fire and other 911 call data in order to get a more precise bid from Davis County.
Toby Mileski, chairman of the Weber Area 911 Dispatch and Emergency Services District, said he could wait no longer for Morgan County to make a decision. The service district is trying to determine wages during and wrap up its budget. If Morgan had not agreed to stay on, departing employees would likely not be replaced, he said.
Mileski warned the Morgan County Council that while it might look like Davis County may offer a better deal for dispatch services, Morgan officials should consider many other things that could cost the county in its switch away from Weber. For example, he said it could cost to transfer Morgan’s records management system, establish a workable GIS database, reprogram cell phone towers (leading to delays in response times), reroute landline calls with CenturyLink, contract fire station alerting and paging systems, purchase new paging equipment and computer servers, reprogram radios, and purchase connectivity licenses.
“Make sure you know what is involved in the change-over so you won’t be in a position where you were not going to be able to provide adequate service your residents deserve,” said Mileski, who is also the mayor of Pleasant View.
Although council members agreed that they would need time to adequately research a change-over, they are still not sure going into this year’s budget hearing where they are going to come up with the $286,000 increase the Weber service district pushed on Morgan. The increase is tied to Morgan’s property values.
“It is going to be a painful budget season,” Councilwoman Tina Cannon said. Cannon noted that with new apartments in Morgan City, the county fire department will likely need to purchase a ladder truck.
“We have got ourselves in a pickle,” said Councilman Logan Wilde.
Councilman Robert Kilmer said Morgan should view the two-year contract with Weber County as an “interim fix” while Morgan researches other providers.
Mileski said that if Morgan were to set up a special service district, it would take one to two years before money could actually be collected.
Mecham said he would rather collect money to pay for dispatch services through a fee or maybe even special service district as compared to a property tax.
“Property tax is the most inequitable tax on this earth,” said Mecham, who noted that a bulk of Weber’s 911 calls come from inner city Ogden while that part of the county has the lowest property values.
Mileski agreed, saying that Ogden City provides 34 percent of the dispatch budget but uses 60 percent of the calls.
County Fire Warden Boyd Carrigan said that Morgan’s mutual agreements are all with Weber County, from which Morgan enjoys a lot of free services. Carrigan said that if Morgan switches to Davis for dispatch, mutual aid agreements would have to be negotiated and services probably wouldn’t be extended for free.
All agreed that emergency dispatch services are essential and something the county has to find a way to fund.
“It is not an option to do without this service,” Kilmer said.
“I feel handcuffed” into making a decision, Councilman Daryl Ballantyne said.
“Due to the timeline, I can see we don’t have much of a choice. We are kinda behind the eight ball,” Mecham said. “We have no choice but to go with Weber County.”