Keeping the ‘status quo’

Communications Commission retains previous procedures for 911 operators; disagreement on commission planning discussed

Much discussion and few action items were held at the Marshall County Communications Commission meeting Tuesday evening.

The commission, formed in a recent 28E agreement to oversee 911 operator salaries and benefits totaling $992,412, passed a motion that, for the time being “everything stays status quo and policy stays status quo” from when the operators were employed by the City of Marshalltown under a previous 28E agreement, in the words of commission member Kim Elder.

That includes job descriptions, seniority earned, and that the acting communications supervisor will be Teresa Lang, who was the communications director at the city.

Also discussed at Tuesday’s meeting were grievances from commission members about the effective date of the agreement. Many said they thought that the new 28E, which was enacted in January, would not become effective until July 1.

However, upon the passing of the new agreement, 911 operators were transferred from the city to the new commission effective immediately.

“I think that this should be held off, I think it should be amended,” said commission Vice Chairman and Marshall County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Patten of the new 28E agreement.

He said he asked Marshall County Attorney Jennifer Miller if the previous agreement or the new agreement should take precedent until July 1. After researching the issue, Miller said in a letter, read aloud by Patten, that “there seems to be a valid argument that each 28E agreement could govern.”

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller was also consulted on the issue, Patten said.

He added he felt the City of Marshalltown did not properly communicate that the employees would be moved from the city to the commission upon the adoption of the new agreement in January.

“Why didn’t this come up ahead of time? We were snowed on this thing, and it’s your fault,” he said, speaking to Marshalltown City Administrator Jessica Kinser.

Kinser disagreed.

“This did come up ahead of time; this was something we had talked about with our attorney,” she said. Patten responded that the topic was not brought up during discussions on the agreement.

“You didn’t bring it to our meeting though; talking to your attorney didn’t help us at all,” he said.

Liscomb Mayor Hank Penner also expressed concern about the agreement’s effective date.

“I feel like I’ve been run over, quite honestly,” he said, characterizing the new agreement’s implementation as “a mess.”

Kinser said the 911 operators have not missed any paychecks and that there have been no issues with benefits or payroll issues that she is aware of on the city’s part.

Marshall County Sheriff Steve Hoffman expressed concern about potential unexpected lease or rent fees when the 911 operators, now commission employees, begin working in the city’s upcoming joint police-fire facility.

Commission Chairman and Marshalltown Mayor Joel Greer also said he would ask Marshalltown City Attorney Roger Schoell to write up a first draft of a formal agreement between the city and commission to not charge fees of that nature.

The next Marshall County Communications Commission meeting is set for 6 p.m. Feb. 27 at the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office, 2369 Jessup Ave.

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Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611 or asodder@timesrepublican.com