Two members of the Slater City Council expressed their disappointment with the decision of the 9-1-1 Commission to build the centralized dispatch center on land near the Marshall airport rather than selecting a site proposed by the city of Slater.
At the council's meeting Tuesday, May 6, Mayor Stephen Allegri and Councilman Ron Monnig each read statements, and each prefaced their comments by saying they spoke for themselves and not for the city or the council.
Allegri's brief statement noted that Slater's proposal to host the facility would have saved the county "hundreds of thousands of dollars."
"It is my personal opinion that Slater's proposal to the 911 Committee was the best and most economical proposal presented," Allegri said.
Allegri focused mostly on the relationship between the smaller towns and rural areas in the county and the county seat.
"I hope the leaders of Saline County and its boards realize that while Marshall (has a) population of approximately 12,000 people, this only accounts for half of the population of the county," he said. "There are approximately 12,000 farmers and citizens of other towns throughout the county that should be equally represented."
Allegri made a plea for unity among the various constituencies in the county, noting that "while Marshall is a wonderful town and we are proud of all it has to offer" other towns have contributions to make, too, and "what's good for one of us is good for all of us."
He ended on a positive note, asking for unity among county leaders: "We all must work together. Our county is too small to fight, but not too small to accomplish great things."
Later in the meeting, Councilman Ron Monnig read a longer, more detailed and more critical statement.
Monnig said that when the process of selecting a site for the 911 call center began all parties involved expected there would be a "level playing field" when decisions were made.
"Nothing could have been further from the truth," he said. "Guidelines have been ignored, criteria changed and invented and paid advertising on how the process would proceed was not followed.
"This is not a question of Slater vs. Marshall. This is a question of open honest government and being good stewards of taxpayers' money. In my opinion, neither has happened in this selection process."
Monnig sited as examples the use of criteria for site selection that used what he considered vague terms such as "remote," "close," "outside of" and "near" to describe appropriate proximities between the dispatch center and other features such as railroads, highways and other emergency response agencies.
"How can you address specifics when such ambiguous terminology is used?" he said.
A site-rating system published by the National Emergency Numbering Association was used by the commission to help make their selection, but Monnig said the specifics of the NEMA criteria should have been provided earlier in the process.
Commission Chairman John Fletcher has said he believes the process was fair to all the proposed sites. Commission members noted when discussing the criteria prior to publishing the call for proposals that there are many criteria to consider and no single site can fully meet all criteria, making the selection process a complex one.
The site near the Marshall airport received 2,361 points from commission members, while Slater's site received 1,911 points.
Commission member Corbin Allred, who effectively gave the Slater site a zero by turning in a blank scoring sheet for it, said he thought the site was inappropriate primarily because of its proximity to railroad tracks that are used to transport hazardous material.
Contact Eric Crump at email@example.com
On the Net:
An analysis of the site selection process: www.marshallnews.com/story/1400083.html
NENA criteria for site selection: http://tinyurl.com/6qy3zq