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Armstrong to contact sups on dispatching issue

By Staff | Dec 6, 2013

ARMSTRONG?- The Armstrong City Council Monday night agreed to send a letter to the Emmet County Board of Supervisors asking what services the county plans to cut if it doesn’t receive a $13,000 payment in full for dispatching services by Dec. 19.

The letter is in response to a letter the council received Nov. 19 from Emmet County Sheriff Mike Martens stating that dispatch services will be cut if the City of Armstrong doesn’t pay in full the $13,000 owed for dispatch services within 30 days.

Armstrong Mayor Marv Dailey recalled that city representatives had met with the supervisors June 2012 and expressed the feeling that Armstrong shouldn’t have to pay 5 percent of dispatch fees – an ongoing arrangement since 1983. Dailey said when the meeting ended that Sheriff Martens was to log the percentage of calls from Armstrong and that representatives of both the county and City of Armstrong were to later meet.

“He (Martens) never did have a meeting. We never did have a meeting. He (Martens) said he didn’t see that was a critical thing,” Dailey said.

Dailey noted that Armstrong now pays $12,000 a year to have the county cover 43 percent of on-call hours for Armstrong – plus is expected to pay $10,000 for dispatching.

“Why do we have to pay for dispatching separately for his people?” asked Dailey.

“Actually it’s not the sheriff’s decision,” said Dailey. “We pay it to the supervisors.” He said he thought Armstrong council members and the supervisors should be able to sit down and discuss the arrangement.

Council member Dave Grussing said Iowa Code was very vague regarding the issue of municipalities paying counties for dispatching.

“There’s nothing that says he (Martens) can’t do that – that’s why he’s doing it,” Grussing said.

Grussing said other small area police departments such as Bancroft, West Bend and Arnolds Park don’t pay dispatching fees, adding that he had written a letter to the editor regarding the matter to county papers.

“I think it’s important that the people of Emmet County and Armstrong know both sides of this,” Grussing said.

Grussing said 1,819 calls by the police department over the past two years amounted to just 45 hours a year. “It needs to be something that’s realistic,” Grussing said.

Council member Don Leach asked police chief Craig Merrill if he could reach the state radio north of Spencer, and Merrill said he listens to it all day.

“It’s sort of a sad commentary that the only agency that can’t help is the Emmet County Sheriff’s Office which is supposed to help us,” Grussing said.

Merrill said he had talked to two other entities that said they would help with dispatching.

Merrill said Martens had told him about the Nov. 18 meeting at which Martens told the Emmet County Board of Supervisors about the letter he was sending Armstrong. Merrill said he had told Martens that he could get on the council’s agenda Monday night regarding the matter. He also suggested that the council write Martens and see what services he planned to cut.

Gregory Buum, Armstrong fire chief and mayor-elect, asked whether fire and emergency services would also get cut. He said he thought the sheriff’s office was charging separately for those services.

Grussing suggested the council send a letter from the mayor to the supervisors asking specifically what areas Martens was proposing to cut.

“We still are looking at a time crunch,” said Grussing, adding that the city needs to get a new 28E agreement addressing what it’s paying and what’s it’s getting.

Councilman Don Leach said the council should send letters to the supervisors and a copy to Martens, asking what services would be cut on Dec. 19 and whether those services include fire and ambulance, and the council approved.

In other business, maintenance director Tom Leach said materials had been ordered a couple weeks ago to repair the water filter and that it should arrive in two weeks.

Regarding a proposal to GKN to share the city lagoon, Leach said the company doesn’t want to contribute to enlarging it but would pay a higher rate for two to three years.

The council approved a personnel committee recommendation for a wage increase and employee insurance. Part of the recommendation was that the city and employees share any future insurance incases.

The council approved the urban renewal report and a Class E liquor license renewal with Sunday sales for Casey’s. It tabled approving policies recommended by the IMWCA for workmen’s compensation.

Merrill noted three drug-related arrests at a residence across from the school last Wednesday.