Bosque Farms won't pay 911 center increase

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http://www.news-bulletin.com/news/81447-07-09-08.html

Bosque Farms won't pay 911 center increase

Clara Garcia News-Bulletin Staff Writer; cgarcia@news-bulletin.com
Bosque Farms Displeased with the services of the Regional Dispatch Center, the Bosque Farms Village Council is refusing to pay an increase requested to run the facility.
During a special meeting Tuesday morning in which the council was discussing its 2008-09 budget, Gayle Jones, the Bosque Farms' clerk-administrator, told the council that the village was presented two different scenarios in which the village would help pay for the center's operational increases.
The dispatch center's director, Shirley Whatley-Valdez, went before county commission last week asking for its support of a one-fourth of 1 percent countywide gross receipts tax to support the call center. In order for the tax to be imposed, a county ordinance must be passed, then the measure must be placed on a ballot and go out for a vote of the citizens, Whatley-Valdez said. She told the commission the increase of taxes would help to pay the salaries of additional dispatchers.
But during Tuesday's meeting, Jones told the council that despite being told in early May that the village's portion of the dispatch fees would remain the same, she was presented with new, increased numbers on June 6. Jones said she is frustrated that the increases weren't discussed or presented to the municipalities before or during the period in which the governing bodies were preparing their preliminary budgets.
"This should have been brought to us in April," Jones said.
According to Jones, the village currently pays $48,000 a year for dispatch services, but the council has earmarked $50,000 in its 2008-09 budget. The first proposed increase would bring the village's portion to $67,123 for three new dispatch positions. The second proposal, for two new positions, would increase the village's portion to $63,204.
"The other kind of thing that kind of upset me about this whole procedure is that we got caught up in the rate study in the Village of Los Lunas," Jones said. "When they did their rate study on their salaries, they came back and raised all their positions according to that rate study — including 911 dispatch."
Although the 911 dispatch has its own governing board, the village of Los Lunas is the group's fiscal agent, meaning the dispatchers fall under its personnel policies and salary studies.
Bosque Farms Mayor Wayne Ake told the council that while he likes Whatley-Valdez, he doesn't care much for the service the dispatch center has provided. He said, "This dispatch is totally out of hand, and they're doing a terrible job."
Ake also told the council that he thinks that Belen, Bosque Farms and the county should stand up and "say we're not going to pay your exorbitant salaries and demand better services."
The mayor said he's called for service twice only to have the dispatcher argue with him.
Councilor Dolly Wallace told the council of an incident that occurred a few weeks ago in which a resident who lives near the Bosque Farms Rodeo Association grounds called dispatch complaining about the noise at the hall during a fundraising event. According to Wallace, the resident said that the dispatcher told her that the association had a "special permit" allowing the music to go on until 12:30 to 1 a.m.
"That dispatch lied to these people and then turn around and did call two police officers that were on patrol," Wallace said. "This just isn't right."
According to an operational budget sheet provided to the News-Bulletin last week, the dispatch center is requesting that Belen increase its fees from $252,014 to $370,841 — an $118,827 increase. The county's increase would be from the current $364,814 to $538,532 — a $173,718 increase. The Village of Los Lunas would pay an additional $172,160. The village currently pays $365,128 into the system and, if approved, it would then pay $537,288.
Whatley-Valdez said in a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon that she understands where the Village of Bosque Farms is coming from, but that it doesn't help her situation.
"I don't blame them," Whatley-Valdez said. "Their budget is tight."
Whatley-Valdez said there are two reasons she's asking for an increase from all those invested in the dispatch center — the first being an increase in calls. She said the dispatch center is in need of three new positions to cover all the incoming calls, both 911 emergency and non-emergency.
The second reason for the increase and the new positions is because she's trying to implement a new system in which all fire and rescue calls are on a separate system from law enforcement. She said the current system is hard for operators and call takers because radio traffic sometimes overlaps.
"It's a need, it's a desperate need," Whatley-Valdez said. "I get complaints every day. But what people don't understand is that I've set up two other dispatch consolidations, and if you ask anyone who has undertaken this task, it takes a good two to three years to get it to be where it's supposed to be."
Whatley-Valdez said the agencies that utilize the center have been used to doing it the way they've always done it before the consolidation and it's going to take time to work out the bugs.
"I understand that they're used to paying less and getting better service and now paying more with less service," she said.
Whatley-Valdez said that now that Bosque Farms is opting out of paying the increase, she'll have to either find a way to cut the center's operating budget or the Village of Los Lunas, the City of Belen and the county will have to make up the difference. She said both Belen and Los Lunas have found the money in their budgets to cover the increase and the county is still working on a solution.
"I do see different things getting better," Whatley-Valdez said of the problems at the dispatch center. "There's a lot more camaraderie in the dispatch center. It's becoming a little bit more professional, and we're getting there. I've got a good 80 percent of these dispatchers who will bend over backwards and will be there for you 110 percent, and those are the ones who are getting burned out."
 
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