By Erin Achenbach
Crestwood has decided to stay with Central County 911 dispatching due to its technology, but officials hope to rally other cities and fire districts to unite against an indemnification clause that takes away Central County’s 911 liability.
Crestwood’s initial bid to modify its contract with Central County fell flat after the Central County 911 Board of Directors rejected Crestwood’s alternate contract without an indemnification clause.
At the Oct. 8 Board of Aldermen meeting, City Administrator Kris Simpson said that the Central County 911 board had declined amendments that Crestwood requested, including an amendment removing an indemnification clause that prevents a lawsuit against Central County if something goes wrong.
The board initially voted to renew the city’s 2020-2025 contract with Central County 911 in July, approving an amended contract that differed from the one offered by Central County.
In August, Central County’s attorney Rob Schultz told aldermen that the Central County board had rejected Crestwood’s amended contract, citing the directors’ desire that all its contracts with municipalities and fire protection districts be uniform, including the indemnification clause.
At the time, the Crestwood board voted for the amended contract, with the understanding that the issue would be taken up again by the Central County 911 directors at their September board meeting.
“We’ve found out that they’re not willing to make that change,” Simpson said Oct. 8.
Despite that rejection, Crestwood Fire Chief Lou Hecht made the case to remain with Central County: “We’ve been with Central County quite a long time and we’ve enjoyed the technology that they’ve provided to us. If we’re not to stay with them, I feel our technology will go back several years and it would almost be doing a disservice to our employees and to our citizens. My main intention… was to get a coalition together of other cities in the same situation as we are to put the pressure on Central County to do an overall removal of that indemnification clause.”
Simpson echoed Hecht’s sentiments, adding that he would be worried about “hiccups” and technology downgrades if the board decided to go with another 911 provider, like Kirkwood Dispatch.
“Any time you have a technological change or a service change, there are gonna be hiccups. I know we’re not crazy about the indemnification clause as it is. I just don’t think hiccups with 911 is something I want to mess around with,” said Simpson. “We’ve operated with this provision over the past several years. I have to back up the chief’s recommendation here that we stick with Central County at least at this time.”
Hecht told the board that his goal was to have a coalition formed within in the next six months if the board chose to stay.
Ward 2 Alderman Justin Charboneau was one of the few aldermen who initially toured both Central County and Kirkwood over the summer when the board was first looking at either renewing its contract with Central County or switching providers.
“I was impressed about the aspects of both facilities,” said Charboneau at the Oct. 8 meeting. “I will say that I felt that Central County definitely stood out. I think there’s a reason why we’ve wanted to stay with them.”
Ward 3 Alderman Scott Shipley made a motion for city staff to reintroduce the full contract, indemnification clause and all, which passed by voice vote. The contract was unanimously approved Oct. 22.
Following the vote, Mayor Grant Mabie suggested that board members and city staff reach out to other Central County organizations and see if a larger group could be formed to encourage Central County to remove the provision.
“In the interim, use your best efforts to talk to the other outfits that use Central County and see if a group beyond us can convince their board to do the right thing in respect to that provision,” said Mabie, an attorney.