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South Dakota's largest county wants Sioux Falls to handle its 911 calls
Under proposal, Sioux Falls City Hall would absorb functions of Metro Communications, which provides 911 call services for all of Minnehaha County
The city of Sioux Falls is taking over 911 dispatch services for the entirety of Minnehaha County.
Mayor Paul TenHaken and Minnehaha County officials announced their intentions to eliminate the multi-jurisdictional organization that governs Metro Communications and instead bring all of the agency's functions under the umbrella of Sioux Falls City Hall.
Currently, Metro Management Council is funded with a combination of telecommunication fees and annual budget allocations from both the Sioux Falls City Council and the Minnehaha County Commission. While the funding mechanism won't change, under the proposed restructuring, county-wide 911 dispatch services will become solely the city's responsibility.
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What's driving this change?
Metro Communications currently operates as an independent government entity. Despite its governing authority consisting of representatives from both the county and the city of Sioux Falls, that legal status limits the agency's access to the city's extensive resources in areas such as human resources, legal counsel and personnel.
"There are just a lot of efficiencies about this change," said Mayor TenHaken, who, along with Commissioner Gerald Beninga and Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead, champion the move as a positive step for Metro Communications, the city, and the county.
The communities served by the agency since the joint city-county partnership formed in 2007 — Baltic, Brandon, Colton, Corson, Crooks, Dell Rapids, Garretson, Hartford, Humboldt, Lyons, Renner, Rowena, Sherman and Valley Springs — will also benefit from the resources that the city of Sioux Falls can allocate to 911 dispatch services, they say.
Milstead said that having 911 dispatch services under the city's jurisdiction will allow the agency to draw upon the city's police and firefighters if there is a shortage of dispatchers during a shift.
"This is the right thing to do," he said. "The best opportunity to help Metro when they're short on staff or they're having to do mandatory overtime, for example, is the resources that Sioux Falls has."
The shift is expected to be budget-neutral, with the county and city continuing to share the cost of operating 911 dispatch.
Councilors and Commissioners will consider a new Joint Powers Agreement at their Joint City Council and Minnehaha County Commission Meeting on Sept. 26. If approved, the city will assume county-wide dispatch services on Jan. 1.