- Associated Press - Friday, January 1, 2016

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) - Flathead County is starting over in its efforts to establish an emergency 911 special district because residents refused to provide the money for dispatch center improvements and maintenance.

County commissioners unanimously voted to accept the results of formal protests that shelved the project for now after more than 10,000 people responded, with less than 1,000 people in support.

The proposed countywide tax district was hoping to raise about $2 million a year for dispatch center improvements and ongoing maintenance, but opponents said there was too much confusion over the way commercial businesses would have been taxed and over notices sent to property owners.

Businesses said some business would bear a bigger financial burden than others.

Residents said they didn’t understand a state law that said the owner’s failure to respond to questions about their support for the plan would be construed as support of the creation of the special district.

The maximum initial assessment would have been $25 per residential unit and up to $1,000 per commercial unit, the Daily Inter Lake reported (https://tinyurl.com/o4xyvtc).

County Administrator Mike Pence said because of the opposition, the project cannot move forward unless people put it on a future election ballot.

Commissioner Pam Holmquist said the process was flawed because it was inequitable to the people who would be paying the bills.

“We need to take another look at it. The last thing we want is a problem with a (911 dispatch) computer when they’re on a call,” she said.

Mitchell said the county and cities didn’t do a good job of explaining it. He said most people weren’t opposed to 911, but they wanted the taxes to be fair.

Former state Rep. Derek Skees, R-Whitefish, said the tax burden would have been a hardship on many residents.

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Information from: Daily Inter Lake, https://www.dailyinterlake.com

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