The Hutchinson City Council on Tuesday approved changes to a few contracts it has with Reno County on the shared costs of operating the E-911 law enforcement and emergency communications center in response to disputes that surfaced last year.
The contracts were long overdue, officials said, after being linked to talks involving former city manager Jeff Cantrell that led to splits with the Reno County sheriff.
Following a joint meeting of the city council and county commission in March, their respective bodies asked the city manager and the county administrator to resolve them.
After the council failed to renew Cantrell’s contract in May, acting city manager Gary Meagher, a former county administrator, quickly struck a deal with his county counterpart.
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The main change in the law enforcement center agreement is that the city’s share of the cost of operating the Reno County Correctional Facility will be reduced from 14% to 12%.
This is because the Reno County Sheriff’s Office no longer transports prisoners for city court or drives individuals to Larned State Hospital in city-related matters.
Although they don’t have a full year of history on transportation support costs, city officials estimate it at around $100,000, Brown said.
Based on the city’s current share of the annual contract, each percent equates to about $38,000, Brown said. Thus, the 2% variation is equivalent to approximately $76,000.
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“I don’t know if the cost is accurate,” Brown told the board. “But it’s a compromise. Rather than splitting hairs, we feel it’s a fair share with the LEC lease… It’s a real reduction in what the city pays.
Other changes related to the city and county no longer operating a joint drug task force, with each agency developing its own.
Language on these operations was later removed, except for the use of a 15,000 square foot county-owned building on Avenue G in which the city has storage. The city will be allowed to continue using it.
A second contract concerns E-911 operations.
The only significant change, Brown said, is that if the city were to adopt a higher operating budget for the service than previously agreed to by the county, the county would not be responsible for those additional costs.
The change was linked to a budget hike last year that neither the city council nor the county commission expected.
It jumped about $600,000 (or $300,000 for each entity) due to the tripling of the number of consoles in the 911 Center following a remodel. Most of the increase was in the software licenses required for each console, although many of these are not regularly used.
Members of a joint 911 board, which is supposed to oversee the operation under the joint operating contract, failed to meet regularly and communicate upcoming changes.
“It’s being implemented,” Brown said of the 911 board. “It was in the contract but it hadn’t been followed. It will happen now. We put this reserve (upon budget approval) to protect the county.
The council also adopted a related annual radio maintenance contract.
“In previous years, the city had a radio maintenance employee,” Brown said. “But he was hired by the company that provides our radio maintenance services, so we contracted for those services. He’s not a city employee. It’s a contract, and we share those expenses (with the county.)”
Councilman Steve Garza asked about the hourly rate paid under the contract, noting he had heard it was $200 an hour.
“We have a contract with them, so if it’s under our service agreement, it’s considerably cheaper than that, maybe $30 an hour,” the police chief said. Hutchinson, Jeff Hooper.
“But if we ask for services outside of our contract, which is very rare, that amount increases,” he said. “It wasn’t $200, but it’s a lot more. Over 95% of our work is under that contract.
While the business is out of Wichita, they have a store in South Hutchinson where the contractor works, Hooper said.
Another significant change to all contracts was new wording extending the termination date by more than a year if either entity decided to terminate the contract.
This was in response to Sheriff Darrian Campbell giving the city 60 days notice for a pair of contracts related to jail transportation and the shooting range.
Particularly on the transportation contract, city officials were not ready when the contract ended abruptly and had to scramble to put together a transportation team.
The agreements are annual, with terms ending on December 31, 2023. But they automatically renew each year for an additional year, unless terminated by either party.
If either wants to terminate an agreement, they must give written notice by the first Tuesday in August of that year, and the effective termination date is no earlier than December 31 of that year. next. Thus, for example, a termination notice given in July 2022 would not take effect until December 31, 2023.