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Council backs off on veto override

County panel lets Workman action stand

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In a surprise move Tuesday by the Salt Lake County Council, the group backed off a decision to override a veto by Mayor Nancy Workman.

The council needed six votes to override her veto of their decision to pull out of Valley Emergency Communications Center. Instead, there were six votes to do nothing about Workman's action taken early in January.

Only Republicans Michael Jensen, Steve Harmsen and Russell Skousen remained unchanged in their decision to face down Workman.

"Our vote was that we were keeping our options open," Jensen said. "Don't think if we give up our negotiating power we will still be able to deal from a position of strength . . . nothing has changed since Dec. 20."

It was Dec. 20 when members of the County Council decided to formally notify VECC that unless substantial compromises were negotiated, the county intended to preserve a contract option to yank fire fighting dispatching services from the entity.

Less than two weeks later, Workman vetoed the group's resolution in the first real test of the new government's separation of powers.

This latest controversy regarding VECC and the county fire department came after the council spent much of last year trying to honor the tenets of an agreement for the sheriff's office to climb on board with VECC.

The big roadblock has been two separate dispatch communications systems already in place by VECC and the sheriff's office that are unable to communicate with each other. Under the agreement approved by the now-defunct county commission, Salt Lake County is required to pay the cost of building an interface between the two systems.

The cost of the interface has been difficult to determine. That problem, along with representation on the policy-making board of VECC have been two glitches that have held up the proposal.

New information presented Tuesday, however, by Workman and her staff effectively made many on the council retract from the earlier position.

First, a California technology firm has given the county a confident proposal to build an interface for about $500,00. Second, earlier concerns that the Salt Lake City Police Department would be eliminated from the joint communication it shares with the county were eliminated.

Third and most important, VECC's Chairman of the Board of Trustees John Patterson assured the county that if negotiations faltered in the coming months, the county would retain its option to withdraw from VECC by the end of this year. That olive branch, the first to be extended by VECC, allows an additional six months to hammer out the deal.

"This is a win-win situation," County Councilman Joe Hatch said. "This puts to test the good faith of VECC. It's putting the monkey on their back."

E-MAIL: amyjoi@desnews.com