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Council discusses police and YSS project

T-R FILE PHOTOS Marshalltown Police Chief Mike Tupper and YSS Director David Hicks provide the city council with an update on a partnership between the entities. It will be the first of its kind in Iowa.

The Marshalltown Police Department and Youth Shelter Services are almost ready to launch a pilot project that could revolutionize policing and social work in Iowa.

Police Chief Mike Tupper and YSS Director David Hicks updated the Marshalltown City Council on the status of the project during a regular council meeting on Monday.

The police, YSS, community members, representatives from health care facilities and social workers have been meeting weekly for more than a month in preparation of launching MPACT — Marshalltown Police and Community Team.

Two full-time employees, called community advocates, will support the police when necessary, serving in an outreach and crisis prevention capacity.

The goals of the program are to reduce arrests when appropriate, take pressure off the police and help families and individuals in Marshalltown.

Recently the city council approved $150,000 to launch the program.

“Never in my entire career have these services been more necessary than right now. The police department has been dealing with some chaotic times as we all are,” Tupper said. “The feedback since the last time we’ve talked about this from the public has been overwhelmingly positive.”

MPACT received grant funding for technology, startup materials, PPE and a vehicle to be used by the advocates.

Hicks said the advocate position was posted online Friday. He hopes to begin interviews in December and have the program ready to launch in January.

“We hope to provide some hope, some choice, some possibilities for families,” Hicks said. “If we help 20 people, that’s wonderful. You just never know down the road what impact we make. We may not know. In time maybe it’ll be a life saving event.”

The council lauded the ambition of Hicks, Tupper and MPACT.

“This is the most interesting thing seen at this council in the 10 years I’ve been here,” Mayor Joel Greer said. “I hope to see this become a model for the rest of the state.”

“I am so proud of what you guys are attempting to do,” Councilwoman Sue Cahill said. “I have faith and confidence we’re going to make a difference in people’s lives in Marshalltown.”

Hicks clarified MPACT would respect confidentiality when responding to incidents. He and Tupper noted confidentiality already applies in mental health service and criminal justice cases.

Hicks plans to update the council quarterly on MPACT’s progress.

“Just be mindful of the bar we’re setting. We strive to reach it,” he said. “We will do the best we can using taxpayer dollars we were given.”

Tupper is confident the program will live up to the expectations of the council and community.

“We can’t fail. You can never fail when you try something new to help people,” he said. “I know we’re going to have a positive impact on the community.”

In other business:

• The council agreed to further consider the Marshalltown Central Business District’s funding request for the fiscal year starting July 2021. MCBD Board President Nate McCormick said the organization’s incentive grant programs have provided more than $165,000 to business owners for improvements and building projects. He said MCBD has been involved in more projects in the last 18 months than in the five years prior.

Funding for MCBD has been higher since the 2018 tornado that hit Marshalltown. McCormick said this funding request is more in line with funding prior to the tornado.

“It allowed us to extend the services and support of the Central Business District to all businesses, not just those who are members,” he said. ” We strive to continue that mission.”

• Public Works Director Justin Nickel approached the council about a resolution to approve an agreement with Fox Engineering of Ames to prepare designs for repairs to water clarifiers at the Water Pollution Control Plant. Water clarifiers are used to treat wastewater and remove contaminants.

Nickel said the floor of one of the two main clarifiers is compromised from groundwater swelling. The floor will need to be replaced and some new equipment will also need to be installed, such as new release valves. The second clarifier underwent a similar repair two years ago. There is a third, smaller clarifier that is used as a backup.

The engineering agreement is for $139,000.

Lance Aldrich, director of wastewater engineering for Fox, said repairing the clarifier would extend its lifespan about 20 years.

Nickel expects to have a plan for repairs in place early next year.

Contact Joe Fisher at 641-753-6611 or jfisher@timesrepublican.com

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