Gering council postpones decision on Interlocal agreement

The Gering city council Monday night postponed a vote on the proposed Interlocal Agreement with the county on funding new equipment for the Communications Center until they have an opportunity to talk one more time with their other municipal partners in the county.

After a half hour closed session, Mayor Ed Mayo indicated there were "still talking points" the city needed to discuss with the other communities that have "stood with us in this time of review."

Council member Jill McFarland, who said she was still not happy with the funding numbers in the agreement, was more vehement Monday night about getting an itemized list of the $496,000 the county has spent on the new equipment that it wants the municipalities to help repay. McFarland says the commissioners approved over a quarter million dollars in the summer of 2012 for radios and phones and possible software, but there is no accounting for the other $230,000.

Council member Don Christensen remains the most vocal about moving forward and signing the agreement, saying the city already paid $40,000 of the $114,000 they are being asked to contribute last year and have the $59,000 being requested this year already in the budget. Christensen says that leaves only $15,000 to be paid in the third year. Christensen said it was "pretty cheap insurance" to have continued 911 dispatch service in case someone in the city had a heart attack or other emergency.

Scotts Bluff County and the city of Scottsbluff, the two largest members of the Interlocal, have already signed off on the agreement.

KNEB News and the Star Herald objected to the closed session on the issue, claiming it was a policy discussion and something the city of Scottsbluff had considered without a closed session. But City Attorney Jim Ellison maintained there were points in the agreement that needed to be negotiated and a closed session was needed "in the city's best interest." The council voted five to one, with McFarland voting no, to enter in the closed session.

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