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New Director Takes Reins at 911 Center
Kalispell mayor pens list of critical questions
Staff work at the Flathead 911 Emergency Communications Center. File photo by Lido Vizzutti | Flathead Beacon
 The Flathead 911 Emergency Communications Center’s new director started work on Aug. 19, stepping in at a time when the center’s long-term funding and operational management are facing scrutiny from the Flathead’s municipalities.

Elizabeth Brooks took the reins at the 911 center on Monday, ending a hiring search that started in May. Roger LaFerrier previously held the position, but left earlier this year.

Brooks is originally from Missoula, but has spent the last 12 years in the Midwest, most recently Indiana. With experience as an emergency dispatcher as well as managing a two-county 911 center in Indiana, Brooks said the Flathead job felt like a great fit.

“I’ve been looking for a reason to come back home to Montana for some time,” Brooks said.

Brooks managed the Fountain-Warren Regional Dispatch Center, which served Fountain and Warren counties. In that job, Brooks dealt with two sets of county commissioners, two sheriffs, multiple fire chiefs and two sets of town marshals.

It was a rural area, she said, but the bones of the operation – dispatching police, fire and EMS – will likely be similar to the Flathead’s 911 center. She also said her dispatcher background gives her an advantage when it comes to managing such an operation.

“It’s been a trend in a lot of places to go with retired police, fire or EMS personnel, and while they bring their own expertise to the job and certainly can do a good job, I have a background as far as dispatching itself,” Brooks said.

Her vision for the future of the 911 center is still relatively raw, largely focusing on what direction the center should go. Brooks said she is still catching up on the conversations surrounding the 911 center’s long-term funding, such as the two-page letter from Kalispell Mayor Tammi Fisher on behalf of the city council to the 911 center’s administrative board.

In the Aug. 13 letter, Fisher laid out several concerns the city of Kalispell has regarding the consolidated center, which serves Kalispell, Whitefish, Columbia Falls and Flathead County.

Fisher outlined seven concerns, including the availability of the center’s fiscal information; board meeting times; the board having an even number of members instead of an odd number to avoid a tie; funding sources; budgeting approval; the relationship between the cost of operations and the level of service provided; and operational oversight.

Brooks said she is aware that she’s stepping into a situation with multiple narratives and players, and she plans on taking the time to educate herself on the major issues facing the center, especially the budget.

“I’m coming into it in the middle of several discussions and just need to catch up a little on where everyone is at,” Brooks said.
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