The city of Huxley will begin paying for dispatch services from the Story County Sheriff’s Office, to the tune of more than $22,000 per year.
The Huxley City Council discussed the proposed contract during their meeting Tuesday, Aug. 13. The initial contract would take effect Jan. 1, 2014, and last until June 30, 2014, during which the city would pay $5.52 per capita for Huxley and Cambridge residents, since the Huxley Police Department services Cambridge, as well. Because the contract will take effect during the middle of the fiscal year, the city will only be charged for six months of dispatch services. Based on the 2010 census, the population for both towns is 4,144, which brings the annual per capita rate for dispatch services to $22,874.88 - the city will only have to pay $11,437.44 during the initial six months. Each year, the per capita charge will automatically increase by either 4 percent or an amount equal to the U.S. Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers, whichever is less. The new rate will take effect each July, according to the dispatching services contract.
Up until Jan. 1, 2014, Huxley has not been paying anything for dispatch services. Story County Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald said this is because of an agreement the city had with his predecessor and nothing has been done to change that since Fitzgerald became sheriff approximately 20 years ago. When the sheriff’s department was looking at the number of calls for service - officer backup assistance, running license plate numbers, et cetera - Huxley made last year, they had more calls than Story City and close to the number of calls for service made by Nevada, both of which currently pay for dispatch services. The large number of calls from Huxley prompted the sheriff’s office to approach Huxley city officials last December to talk about arranging a contract to continue providing dispatch services. However, city officials decided they were not interested in the contract at the time, Fitzgerald said.
Huxley Police Chief Mark Pote said the sheriff’s office will not provide dispatch services to the city’s law enforcement and emergency departments without a contract. He checked with surrounding dispatch service centers to see if any of them would be able to provide dispatch services, but none would be able to service Huxley.
"We have to have a dispatch center. They (sheriff’s office) will continue providing services until Jan. 1, then it becomes an officer safety issue both here and in Cambridge," Pote said if the contract is not approved.
Councilwoman Marge Nerness said she doesn’t understand why residents are having to pay twice for dispatch services when they are already putting money toward emergency services through the property taxes they pay.
"I think it’s a money grab, and I don’t like what he’s going to do," Nerness said of Fitzgerald’s contract.
Fitzgerald, who was not present during Tuesday night’s meeting, said residents will not be paying twice for the same services. Rather, the dispatch service charge is a charge that Huxley should have been paying all along, just like the Nevada and Story City communities have been doing. However, due to an oversight, they have not been held responsible in the past to pay for these services. In this day and age, public safety depends on dispatch services for the technology and officer safety. Huxley has been utilizing those services but has not been charged for them, explained Capt. Barry Thomas of the Story County Sheriff’s Office.
Huxley police officers will continue to answer calls made to the police department’s number, Pote said, as "a small town, convenience thing," despite the contract with the sheriff’s office. Not having to pay for dispatch services was something Pote knew the city would not be able to get away with forever.
"I knew it would come around sometime and it did," Pote said.
The council approved the contract by a vote of 3-1, with councilman Mark Baker in opposition. Councilwoman Tracey Roberts was not present during the vote.