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Who Ya Gonna Call? 

The county’s 911 system crashes; plus, Olympia gets more male-dominated

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System Failure

Emergency calls stopped going through to the county’s 911 communications center for about 40 minutes Monday night when two backup systems failed at the same time.

Lorlee Mizell, director of 911 Emergency Communications, says technicians have not yet determined the cause of the system crash at about 6:40 pm Monday, but they believe a computer card may have failed, taking down the main phone system and two additional on-site backups.

“It’s a redundant system,” she says. “This is highly unusual that all these redundancies would fail at the same time.”

The center coordinates 911 and Crime Check calls for the city and county emergency services. Dispatchers quickly noticed the drop off in calls and moved to a smaller secondary center at a separate location. Mizell says it took about a half-hour to shift staff and resume call service. Operations continued to work out of the secondary center Tuesday with hopes the problem would be fixed by the end of the day.

The call center reportedly averaged about 700 emergency calls a day in 2011, totaling 257,600 for the year. The center received an additional 186,500 Crime Check calls last year.

— JACOB JONES

Where the Women At?

No one knows how the Washington state Legislature will close the state’s budget gap or properly fund schools. But one thing is certain: There won’t be as many women involved.

Next year’s session will include 44 women among its 147 members, or about 30 percent. That, according to the Seattle Times, is the fewest since 1990. That shortage is reflected in Eastern Washington. Democrat and Senate Majority leader Lisa Brown retired this year. She was the only female legislator in the three legislative districts that make up the Spokane area, and she’s been replaced by a man. Two other female candidates — Democrat Amy Biviano and Republican Nancy McLaughlin — lost their state legislature races.

Eastern Washington University Professor Jessica Willis says a dearth of women politicians can affect how governments handle legislation dealing with women’s bodies and reproductive rights, as well as poverty issues. And Willis says the shortage perpetuates itself, since there are fewer role models and women available to mentor aspiring female politicos.

“I was asking how many plan to get married and 90 to 95 percent [of hands went up],” Willis says of a mostly female class that she taught. “And then I asked how many plan to go into political office, the hands were just obliterated. There were just two or three hands in the room.”

— JOE O’SULLIVAN

Out-of-Control Costs

In Spokane, building and facility company McKinstry has lately been the subject of praise, thanks to the McKinstry Innovation Center, its local headquarters that serves as a hub for creative startup companies. (See “Calculating the Future,” p. 24.)

But for one school district in Idaho, the word “McKinstry” carries a much more negative connotation. Since May, the Blaine County School District, near Hailey, has been tangled in an ongoing legal battle with McKinstry Essention, a technically separate, but intertwined company the district hired to make its buildings more energy efficient.

“There was a guaranteed maximum price in the contract,” says Heather Crocker, a district spokeswoman. “McKinstry believes we owe them more money.” There is nearly $7 million at dispute.

The district’s now seeking punitive damages, referring to internal emails from McKinstry Essention discussing a “buried margin,” hiding money, and building up costs as “far as [McKinstry] can justify it without being noticed.”

In a statement sent to The Inlander, a representative for both McKinstry and McKinstry Essention does not address the emails, but calls the district’s claims “baseless,” and “nothing more than a dispute over payment.”

— DANIEL WALTERS

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