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Should Armstrong voters decide dispatching issue?

By Staff | May 30, 2014

For two years now, the Armstrong City Council has grappled with the thorny issue of whether it should pay for dispatching services from Emmet County. It’s not an issue that’s going to go away. Someone has to make a decision.

Armstrong city officials have been saying they shouldn’t have to be paying for dispatching services – or that those services should be revised downward from the 5 percent the city was paying previously. The city stopped paying for dispatching just about two years ago, in an attempt to renegotiate its dispatching fee to the county. As a result, Emmet County Sheriff Mike Martens stopped providing dispatching services in December, followed by cancellation of the county’s law enforcement contract with the City of Armstrong.

Armstrong officials have said it was Martens’ way of taking control of Armstrong’s law enforcement.

Martens says taking on Armstrong is taking on more work for himself – without charging an administrative fee allowed under Iowa Code.

Armstrong says it was paying too much for dispatching.

Martens says he can save the city $30,000 from what it currently pays for law enforcement.

Armstrong wants to retain control over its own police department. That’s admirable from a standpoint of community pride.

And yet that pride comes at a cost – $105,000 to be exact. And that’s without adding another part-time officer or officers, something that’s necessary to give Armstrong Police Chief Craig Merrill desperately needed time off.

Armstrong Mayor Greg Buum says Armstrong residents don’t want to give up their own police department – that they would strongly oppose such a move.

Sheriff Martens says Armstrong residents should favor saving $30,000 a year in law enforcement costs – something he says he could do.

Both Buum and Martens are correct in that the needs of the citizens of Armstrong should be taken into account in deciding the dispatching issue.

So why not let the citizens decide.

By holding a public vote, Armstrong residents could be the ones to decide how their law enforcement would be handled – by their own department or by Emmet County. By letting the voters decide, the pressure would be taken off the shoulders of the mayor and council who would then carry out the voters’ wishes.

It’s an issue worth considering.

And it just might be a good way to solve a deadlock that’s going nowhere.