Carson City supervisors bowed Thursday to the demands of city emergency workers to get moving on a new dispatch system, but left the door open on exactly which one they'll buy.
The supervisors told city staffers to begin negotiations with computer vendor Tiburon, seen as the more expensive but better-equipped of two systems.
But they also want more information on the other system, HTE, and how well the two computer dispatching competitors operate in other cities, supervisors said.
The idea of linking with Reno's dispatch system also wasn't ruled out.
"We're going to have a new building and new radios, but we'll be stuck in the old building because we don't have a new computer-aided dispatch system," communications operator Janice Ratliff told supervisors. "We need to make a decision and we need to make it soon."
District Attorney Noel Waters was asked to head a committee to revisit which system is best and to try to calm tempers, which had flared recently over the 2-year-old project.
"I'm happy not to have been lynched on the way in here," Waters quipped in his report to supervisors.
With a $600,000 dispatch center being constructed in South Carson City, sheriff, fire and dispatch personnel have been enraged by the city's standoff on the computer issue. They argued for the Tiburon system.
On the other side, city finance and information service personnel argued that cost should be part of the supervisors' decision.
Estimates show that a full Tiburon system would cost about $1.4 million and an HTE system would cost about $775,000. The system has a budget of $932,000.
Sheriff Rod Banister said the supervisors' decision Thursday will allow the city to get a real cost for the Tiburon system.
"All they approved was to go look for a price," Banister said. "You never will know the price until you enter into negotiations. Regardless of the price, I'm convinced HTE is not our system."
Banister said dispatch needs to stay in Carson City, and not be contracted to Reno. But even if Tiburon is favored, Banister has a few requirements before the issue is laid to rest.
He would like to be able to contract for the technical support necessary to run the system for a year to determine the system's maintenance costs.
Sheriff's Administrative Sgt. Jack Freer said the basic Tiburon system costs only $550,000 and the rest of the Tiburon package would have to compete against other projects for future funding.
Around 100 dispatch supporters attended Thursday's meeting and pleaded to be "drug from the 1980s kicking and screaming."
They asked supervisors to make a decision, rather than let another committee deal with the issue.
Communications Manager Laura Cadot told supervisors it was critical they recognize that the current system is outdated and falling apart.
"We've devised a manual system, so if anything goes down we can get it on paper," Cadot said. "We've done the work. We're falling apart in there and we need your support."
Communications Operator Liz Hertz told supervisors they don't know what she does for a living.
"If you were changing your office, I wouldn't come in and tell you what to do," Hertz said. "Don't you think we're scared? It's a new system we have to learn. But HTE isn't the system."
Supervisor Pete Livermore asked if anyone in the audience wanted an HTE system. Nobody moved.
"It's hard to go against the recommendations we've had from numerous people and committees," Livermore said. " I have letter after letter after letter favoring Tiburon as the vendor of choice. The vote's cast. I heard what you said."
Supervisors voted initially 4-1 in favor of negotiating with Tiburon, but Mayor Ray Masayko changed his vote.
"I don't support it, but we'll make the best of it," Masayko said. "When the board makes a decision I have to jump on board."