Ray Fields - Consider complex story of YCOM's founding, fund

I believe the News-Register editorial, “Fiscal prudence all talk, no action” (Viewpoints, May 31), reflects a lack of understanding of the real YCOM situation.

One needs to look at what YCOM is, how it came about and where it may be in the future. I have a unique perspective because I serve on the board of the McMinnville Rural Fire Protection District.

YCOM was formed by agreement with the participating taxing districts it serves under Chapter 190.010 of Oregon Revised Statutes. The agency originally was formed to consolidate the dispatching of public safety services nearly countywide under one roof, so to speak. YCOM does not serve the Newberg-Dundee area.

We have a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP), which answers calls to 9-1-1 in certain parts of Yamhill and Polk counties. The YCOM 9-1-1 operators then dispatch the appropriate personnel in response. As formed, YCOM has no taxing authority, but instead relies on financing its operations from fees paid by the user fire and police agencies plus 9-1-1 money received from a surcharge on all regular and cell telephone numbers.

Part of the issue here is that, years ago, the Yamhill County Board of Commissioners created a special district with bonds for the purpose of purchasing radio equipment (microwave backbone, base stations and mobile radios).

After the bonds were paid off, the district was dissolved and ownership of the equipment purchased with the funds was transferred to the county. The Board of Commissioners has been considering transferring ownership of the equipment to YCOM.

While on the surface this may appear to be reasonable, when looking at all the ramifications of such a transfer, it does not really make sense to me. Part of the proposed YCOM budget includes funding for maintenance and replacement of the radio equipment it doesn’t yet own and should not own.

Radio communications equipment, including the microwave backbone and base station radio facilities, need immediate upgrades; this need does not extend to internal dispatch facilities at YCOM. The upgrade should be accomplished by forming a new special district where funds collected are dedicated to the purchase and maintenance of the equipment, as well as creating reserves for replacement as, with the advancement of technology, it becomes obsolete.

I agree that public safety must come first when we look at our government budgets. That said, how these funds are raised needs to be carefully considered. Funding of YCOM is quite complicated; a substantial portion of the funds to operate YCOM comes from 9-1-1 fees on telephone services collected by the state and distributed to the PSAPs.

There is a strong possibility that in the near future YCOM (the dispatch center in McMinnville) could disappear and be consolidated into a PSAP/dispatch center in Salem, should the state decide to consolidate PSAPs and no longer distribute 9-1-1 funds. Who would own the equipment and be responsible for it in that event? The answers are a lot more complicated than meet the eye.

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