David Hanners, St. Paul Pioneer Press
August 22, 2005

A group of suburban mayors who don't like Ramsey County's plan for funding a new, consolidated emergency dispatch center have asked the county board to postpone Tuesday's planned vote on the proposal.

The mayors claim the county's funding scheme is unfair and charges their cities more than what they should pay. They say they've come up with a plan that is more equitable to the communities involved in the center, which handles 911 calls.

At present, St. Paul, Maplewood and White Bear Lake have their own dispatch centers, while other suburban cities contract with Ramsey County's call center to handle their emergency calls.

Ramsey County Commissioner Jim McDonough said county officials believe the current method of funding undercharges the suburbs. The plan favored by the county would shift the costs to a property tax levy phased in over eight years.

But the suburban mayors say the proposal puts an unfair burden on suburban residents because 70 percent of the emergency calls come from St. Paul. The plan favored by the mayors would use a property tax levy to pay for 40 percent of the dispatch center, while the bulk of the funding would come from charging cities based on their volume of calls.

Ramsey County Commission Chairwoman Victoria Reinhardt said the consolidated dispatch center still was on the board's Tuesday agenda, but she wasn't sure what would happen. "We could lay them over, amend what's there or vote them up or down," she said.

McDonough advocates passing the county's plan.

"There is going to be some cost shift as this all sorts out, but we feel it is fair and equitable," he said. "The contract cities have not been paying the right rate. If we didn't merge and just billed the contract cities the rate they should be paying, their rates would really rise. There's going to be a cost shift, but it's a fair cost shift and we feel it's justified."

-- David Hanners, Pioneer Press

2005 St. Paul Pioneer Press and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.