PENDLETON - The Umatilla Board of Commissioners approved contracts for the county to provide 9-1-1 emergency dispatch services for the Umatilla police and the fire departments at its administrative meeting Monday.

Umatilla requested becoming a part of the county's 9-1-1 service because the city's current provider, Hermiston, is not using the new computerized dispatch program operating in the county.

The commissioners also gave Lt. Kathy Lieuallen permission to hire another 9-1-1 dispatch operator. Lieuallen said the service is already operating somewhat short-handed due to sick leave and other absences, making staffing especially difficult on weekends.

Lieuallen said most of the money to fund the position will come from the agreement with Umatilla.

"We're down to three dispatchers on call right now and a lot work full time as well," she said.

The addition of Umatilla could bring down the cost for other cities using county dispatch, because the cost will be shared by more agencies, she added.

The commissioners unanimously supported both accepting the contracts and hiring another dispatcher, but not without a cautionary word from Commissioner Dennis Doherty about the likelihood of costs going up.

"We have to keep our eyes open," he said. He cited the county jail, which was planned under one set of economic circumstances, but built when the economy turned downward and voters limited spending. Consequently, the funding hasn't been available to operate at full capacity. Doherty said circumstances also could negatively impact the county's 9-1-1 service.

"As we move forward from year to year, it could end up costing more than we thought it would cost," Doherty said. "I'll give you $1,000 if, 10 years from now, you don't experience what I'm talking about.

The Board of Commissioners also approved several spending requests for money already budgeted but requiring approval when the actual spending was planned, such as $1,000 to accompany a $10,000 grant from the Wildhorse Foundation to repair the bell that has been broken since installation on the clock tower.

Other budget orders included transferring $6,075 from the general fund's contingency fund to cover the extra rent that was necessitated when the County Courthouse in Hermiston was gutted by fire.

"This is as good an example as to why we have a contingency fund as there is," Commission Chairman Emile Holeman said.

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