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Powell fire district weighs dispatch options

Should the Powell Volunteer Fire Department be summoned to emergencies by the Powell Police Department or by the Park County Sheriff’s Office dispatch centers?

Directors of Park County Fire Protection District No. 1 and members of the fire department are weighing the merits of sticking with the Park County Sheriff’s Office dispatch center or returning to the Powell Police Department dispatch.

Since 2000, the Powell Fire Department has been paged for emergency calls like fires and car wrecks by the sheriff’s dispatch. In the near future the district and firefighters will decide whether to remain with the sheriff’s office or return to Powell police dispatch.

The district switched to the sheriff’s office in 2000 because the price kept increasing for dispatch services they were receiving from the Powell Police Department, according to Roger Easum, the district’s treasurer.

Easum is the only remaining director who was present when the district decided to switch to the county for radio dispatch.

The district is currently paying $1,250 per month for county dispatch service.

Park County Sheriff Scott Steward offered a tentative proposal to increase the above figure by 10 percent and then begin implementing 3.5 percent annual cost of living increases.

Powell Police Chief Roy Eckerdt tentatively proposed offering a rate of $1,500 per month, which is what it charged the fire department in 2000.

Both offers are negotiable, said Kenny Skalsky, the district’s administrator. If a change were made it would likely occur in July when the district prepares its annual budget.

“I don’t have a problem switching because I know you both are going to do a good job,” said Easum to Steward and Eckerdt at the district’s monthly meeting Tuesday evening.

Both law enforcement heads said they would not bear any ill feelings if the district chose the other agency.

“I don’t think you are going to see any animosity either way,” Steward said.

Neither department is trying to turn a profit, according to their leaders.

“It’s not a money-making venture,” Eckerdt said. “It’s about public safety.”

Powell Fire Chief Joey Darrah said he wants to retain the positive interaction the department enjoys with both agencies. “We have a great relationship with the SO (sheriff’s office) and PD (police department),” he said.

If one dispatch center went down, the other could step in to page Powell Fire. “Either one of us can do it,” Steward said.

All landline and Verizon 911 calls in the Powell area are routed to Powell dispatch. Powell dispatch must contact the county, who in turn pages the Powell Fire Department. Powell pages Powell Hospital ambulance. Other cell phone 911 calls go directly to the county. One to three minutes are lost when Powell must contact the county, Fire Department Asst. Chief Damian Dicks said.

“We’re always trying to find ways to decrease our response time,” Dicks said.

The district did not make any decisions Tuesday evening.

Darrah asked the district to allow him time to examine the proposals and discuss it with the district directors prior to the district’s March meeting.

The district meets at 7 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month.

Two directors, Scott Heny and Kelly Spiering, were not present at the Tuesday meet. The directors wanted to wait to discuss the proposals with Heny and Spiering, Skalsky said.

“We’ll keep doing business as usual until you guys decide what you want to do,” Steward said.

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