Marion County Commissioners, at their Sept. 11 meeting, heard from Lester Kaiser, District 5 fire chief, who questioned why money can’t be used on the new 800 MHz radios needed by emergency responders.
“I have got people screaming because we are having to scrimp and save (for the radios),” he said.
“And some of my people have asked if the ($16 million in cash reserves) is already earmarked, why isn’t there a list of what it’s for?”
Kaiser said he wondered why something isn’t written down, citing how a budget has line items and funds set aside for emergency spending or purchasing or for other reasons.
County commissioner Dianne Novak also asked about the funds.
“Is it possible to pay for these radios?” she said.
County Clerk Tina Spencer said that it’s possible to pay for the fire districts’ radios, but other departments could use the money, too.
Kaiser said: “I am asking for the whole project to include fire, EMS and law enforcement.
“The city of Marion paid all of it themselves, but this is a county project and for county emergency response.”
Most counties, he said, will get radio systems paid for that includes the infrastructure and radio.
Commission chairman Randy Dallke said that some counties pay while others don’t.
Novak said she thinks the county should help.
The radios would be used in a situation with a house on fire and somebody is trapped inside, she said.
“The same with EMS and somebody laying in the street needing help—it’s an emergency,” she said.
Kaiser, referring to his area of Lincolnville and Clear Creek, said the radio use isn’t just for this district alone.
“The radios would be used countywide,” he said.
Dallke said that some fire districts started saving for these radios two or three years ago.
But Kaiser said his fire district was one group that put money back.
“We didn’t have a definitive timeline, definitive amount of dollars or a project date,” he said. “How do we budget for something we don’t know when will happen?”
Commissioner Kent Becker said he was on the fire district board and three or four years ago he said the only thing they knew was that something was coming down the road soon.
“I understand the concern,” Becker said, “and if we could help in some way, I would be in favor of that.”
Kaiser asked how much the entire project would cost the county.
“From talking to Sheriff Rob Craft and EMS director Ed Debesis, the cost would be about $700,000 to $800,000,” Kaiser said.
“The mill levy was raised for next year again, and can someone just please explain to me why if the tax dollars are here we can’t use them.”
Spencer said she has started an analysis going back about 10 years to show ending cash balances in each of the funds and with the typical expenditures to get it averaged out.
“I can go line-by-line and show that we have money in the budget that is all earmarked,” she said.
No decision about the funding was made, but Dallke said he would take Kaiser’s request under consideration.
Also attending the meeting was Brad Pagenkopf with Fire District 6 which serves Lost Springs.
Pagenkopf’s district didn’t qualify for the USDA grant, nor did District 7 representing Blaine and Tampa.
In other business, the commission:
• heard from Tom Finger, loan specialist with USDA rural development.
Finger had the forms ready for signature, which is the next step in the grant process for radios.
Those included a letter of condition, letter of intent, request for obligation of funds and the operating budget for each of the districts based on the 2017 budget.
The other signatures were required on the community facilities grant agreement, application for federal assistance and the assurance agreement with certification forms.
• listened as Marion County citizen Mike Beneke talked to Novak at the start of administrative business saying that if she belittles Spencer again he would do something.
“I am pretty good at getting something done if I put my mind to it,” Beneke said.
“Tina is one of the best things we got in our county as far as I am concerned, and I don’t think anybody will disagree with that.”
Novak said Beneke was out of line with his comments.
• heard from Novak who spoke about the “confidential memorandum” she and the other commissioners received from Susan Robson, county counselor.
The memo, she said, was regarding social media and posts on her Facebook page.
“I don’t believe this applies to me,” Novak said to Robson. “(Facebook) is successful and I hear a lot from constituents. It is valuable information.”
• talked about minutes that were brought back after no decisions were made at the last meeting.
After discussing pros and cons, the commission voted unanimously to scale the minutes back.
The minutes will now be written when there are extended discussions or when action is taken.
• agreed to accept the low bid for a licensed electrician to connect the new air compressor at the transfer station. The bid was awarded to Sanders Electric at $575. Elcon Services bid was $1,523.
Becker said there are more than two electricians in the county, and in the future Bud Druse, director of the transfer station, should give all electricians an opportunity to bid on projects.
Both Dallke and Novak agreed, too.
• listened as Jesse Hamm, director of the Road and Bridge Department, said he found a dump truck which will fit their needs as a snow plow.
It is a one-ton Ford 550, 7.2 liter engine with 300,000 miles. The auction showed it at $3,900 thus far on Purple Wave. The commissioners directed Hamm to go to Columbus, Mo., where the truck is and make sure it is in good running order. They also allowed Hamm to bid up to $9,500 on the pickup.
• a discussion regarding the condition of the transfer station will be Sept. 25.