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October 29, 2013

Panel recommends not charging county fee

Study panel, commissioners clash

BRENTWOOD — A legislative study panel says county commissioners should drop a plan to charge towns for using the county dispatch center, but that recommendation may be cast aside.

The panel, appointed by the Rockingham County legislative commission, contends in a report presented to county commissioners Friday that the fee is not a reasonable way to fund proposed upgrades to the dispatch center.

“Our conclusions and recommendations are that this fee is not the proper way to fund a vital function of the county,” the study commission says in its report.

The panel recommends establishment of a capital improvements fund to pay for the upgrades, initially estimated to cost nearly $1 million.

But it remains to be seen whether the three county commissioners follow the panel’s recommendation. Chairman Katharin Pratt of Hampton and Commissioner Kevin Coyle of Derry are strong supporters of a fee.

Members of the county legislative delegation have questioned the commissioners’ right to assess such a fee. Coyle said they have told him he will not be re-elected if the fee is assessed.

“I’m not going to be bullied and intimidated by them,” Coyle said yesterday.

He called the report a waste of time and resources since it would be up to the commissioners, not the study panel, to decide whether a fee is assessed.

“It’s a nice little report,” Coyle said, “but it doesn’t mean anything.”

Rockingham County Sheriff Michael Downing said the projected cost for the improvements has since been reduced from $1 million to $421,000. He said a federal grant is being sought to fund 90 percent of the cost.

Pratt and Coyle said commissioners won’t vote on a funding mechanism until they know the county will receive the grant.

County commissioners received angry responses from some town officials and legislators when the plans to charge communities an annual fee was announced this spring.

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