Cities, counties and the state continue to wrestle with funding issues for 911 dispatch centers.

In recent years, more government bodies have combined forces to take advantage of funding under state law that basically is geared to set up a single, central dispatch center in each county.

Eliminating redundancies and streamlining the process, as well as the funding model, was at the root of the Legislature's decision to push Oregon cities and counties to consolidate into one county-wide system.

In Umatilla, the cities of Hermiston and Milton-Freewater have opted to try to keep their own systems, citing concern over time delays from a central center and the loss of local input and control.

The county's system and its center, graced with new equipment provided by the state funds, can handle any situations that arise promptly and well, say supporters.

Milton-Freewater's City Council discussed the issue at its most recent meeting in an effort to find ways to retain its own center.

The amount of state tax revenue the city receives has declined significantly in the past few years, said city officials.

While that may be by design due to the intent of the law, city officials say they are frustrated with the lack of response to their questions.

Even so, new information from a state audit won't do much to allay fears of funding inequities and the system itself.

The Oregon's secretary of state's audit showed that the state's three least populous counties collected more than they needed to pay another county to dispatch police officers and firefighters last year.

The law also allowed some less populated counties to collect more tax money through the 21-year-old telephone tax that helps pay for the 911 centers than some more densely populated ones, according to the audit.

State officials said they were required to follow the law despite the disparities in spending.

While the audit doesn't mandate any changes, it does recommend the Legislature alter the tax law when it convenes in January.

What should be a system that offers prompt help in emergencies through efficient use of taxpayer dollars is still fraught with concerns.

More awareness of issues and problems is needed through a dialogue between city, county and state officials.

Cooperation is needed to fully realize the benefits of the 911 system. The public deserves no less.

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