Selectmen urge county to find alternative dispatch funding methods
March 03, 2010
Selectmen did not receive the response they were hoping for from the Belknap County Commissioners, they said last Wednesday night in discussing alternative forms of funding for county services.
Over the last few months, the board has looked for ways to cut high health insurance spikes and considered handing the Gilford Police Department's "midnight shift" over to Belknap County's dispatch services. The board was then informed that the current county system is not equipped to serve the town and that regionalizing county-wide dispatch services would become a lengthy process.
The selectmen said they would stand behind the county sheriff and their own deputy and chief if they did not feel comfortable transferring over dispatch services, but they were unhappy to learn they are paying for services that are not readily available to them, as they are to nine out of 11 other towns.
The board wrote a letter to county commissioners, informing them that Gilford pays over 16 percent on dispatch services they cannot use, and that this percentage adds up to about $90,000 a year. In the selectmen's letter, they suggested that the county either refund the town or charge the towns that use the services.
The commissioners recently responded to this initial letter, and did not satisfy the board with their answer.
"Tax bills are not assessed based on the level of individual services provided," stated the commissioners. "This often results in the taxpayer paying for services they are not assessing at any given time, but rather everyone contributes, based on property value, to the greater good of the whole."
The commissioners said they would be willing to provide the same services to the town of Gilford, as they do for other towns, "after a plan for implementation and funding is secured."
"The commissioners sent us a letter back, saying they didn't want to give back a refund. We asked them to either stop charging us, or give us a refund," said board Chair Gus Benavides. "Why doesn't the county charge other communities to reduce the town's costs not using the service? It is only fair to Gilford taxpayers, who can't even utilize the service."
Benavides said this response still remains an issue to the town, and he feels it is not right for Gilford to be paying for services they cannot participate in. He said the board will continue to "encourage" the county to assess the overall regional project or to seek out funding in a different manner.
"These services are provided by the county for other towns. The sheriff is saying the service has reached its capacity," said Benavides. "My impression is there will be no refund, and that they will still look at regionalization, but as a study standpoint."
Benavides said the sheriff, the police department, and the board would have to agree to participate in this potential one to two-year regionalization study, although in the meantime, the board will continue to push for alternative funding methods.