The Legislature might step in to mediate a long simmering feud between the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office and the company hired to field emergency calls.
The relationship between the county and the Valley Emergency Communications Center got so bad last year that the County Council passed a resolution urging Sheriff Jim Winder to withdraw from VECC and run all county 911 calls to the sheriff's dispatch center. That move has since stalled, but the relationship is still rocky.
Now VECC and county leaders can't agree on how to distribute 911 tax revenue. The county said it's paying VECC too much, while VECC said it's not enough.
"It's like a real-estate deal. The guy who buys it thinks he overpaid and the guy who sold it thinks he didn't get enough money for it," Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon said. "Everybody has got a different perspective and everybody doesn't think they are getting enough money, so I thought we'd get somebody neutral to figure it out."
So instead of arguing over biased numbers, Senate President John Valentine will ask for a legislative audit to clarify budgets and determine how best to split 911 revenue, his spokesman Ric Cantrell said.
Corroon asked for the audit last month, and VECC executive director William Harry said he wants the whole thing cleared up as well.
"Given the feud between the sheriff's office and the VECC, and given that it has a larger regional interest, Senator Valentine thought it's probably appropriate to have the state auditors do it," Cantrell said.
Before an audit can begin, Valentine must get approval from the Legislative Audit Review Committee, which he sits on with three other legislative leaders.
The revenue at issue is generated from a 61-cent tax on every phone line, be it a land line or cell phone. That revenue is collected by the tax commission then given to local municipalities, based on the number of phone lines per ZIP code.
Salt Lake County takes in all the revenue and then pays VECC for its share of the work.
VECC is practically the only game in town when it comes to 911 dispatch systems. Salt Lake City has the only other operating dispatch center. VECC handles the majority of the calls, since it handles 911 dispatch calls for police, fire and emergency medical services for Draper, Midvale, Murray, Sandy, South Jordan, South Salt Lake, West Jordan, West Valley City and Salt Lake County.
The County Council is scheduled to approve an interlocal agreement with VECC today clarifying how much the county will pay the call center for its services. Winder said the timing of the agreement seemed odd, since a legislative audit could be on the horizon.
However, Winder said he only agreed to sign new payment terms after finding out the three year agreement has a 60-day bailout option.
Both sides have been at odds for years, with inoperability issues and a fight about the county refusing to move some of its offices into VECC headquarters.
Winder said he hopes that will all be forgotten so the county can move in a better direction. Clear budget numbers provided by the audit will prove that it's financially viable for Salt Lake County to bolt from VECC and start its own 911 dispatch center, he said."I don't give a rat's patootie about the historical baggage," Winder said. "I'm interested in the best direction for the county. We need to ensure that after this audit is done, and the revenue sharing is fair, we need to pursue" the county's own 911 system.
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