Police departments in Airway Heights, Medical Lake and Liberty Lake will begin paying next year for dispatching service that previously has been free.
Undersheriff Jeff Tower said the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office said the change, effective Jan. 1, eliminates an unfair subsidy by taxpayers in unincorporated parts of the county.
Also, he said charging allows the sheriff’s office to provide better service to the small cities.
“There were a lot of needs and requests that we weren’t able to provide because we were giving services for free,” Tower said.
He said the reaction in the affected cities “has been just fine.”
“Obviously, if at all possible, they would like to continue to receive the service free,” he said. “But we really have had no resistance to the concept.”
The change doesn’t affect cities and towns that contract with the sheriff’s office for police service, including Spokane Valley, Millwood and Deer Park. They pay for dispatching service through their contracts.
Nor does it affect Cheney, which does its own dispatching.
The new dispatching charge will be collected monthly, based on estimated use, and adjustments will be made when actual use is known, Tower said.
The annual cost is expected to be $87,000 in Airway Heights, $59,000 in Liberty Lake and $25,000 in Medical Lake.
Tower said Airway Heights accounts for 5.1 percent of sheriff’s dispatching calls this year; Liberty Lake, 3.5 percent; and Medical Lake, 1.8 percent.
Dispatching is costing the sheriff’s office almost $1.6 million this year in direct costs such as salaries equipment and maintenance. Indirect costs, such as supervision by managers who split their time among various programs, adds $124,181, Tower said.