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Split 911 board votes to move coordinator position to the county

By Bob Steenson,

The 911 coordinator will become a county employee and be located at the courthouse and new law enforcement center, a divided Floyd County 911 Service Board decided Wednesday evening.

A special meeting of the board continued the discussion started at the board’s regular meeting held Feb. 4, whether the part-time position should be transferred from City Hall to the county facilities.

The board members ended up voting 6-3 to approve moving the position to the county.

The special meeting was called rather than wait until the next regular quarterly board meeting because the current 911 coordinator, Kathy Herrick, will be retiring May 31.

Floyd County Supervisor Roy Schwickerath, a member of the 911 Service Board, had raised the issue at the Feb. 4 meeting, and the discussion Wednesday covered mostly the same points that had been made previously by people for and against the move.

Herrick is a full-time city employee, with 40% of her time devoted to the 911 administration position and 60% as the Police Department secretary. The cost of her 911 wages and benefits are paid to the city through an operating agreement with the 911 Services Board.

Schwickerath said the position with the county would continue to be 40% 911 administration, with the remaining time divided 50% as an assistant to Floyd County Environmental Health Administrator and 911 manager Jeff Scherman, and 10% as an assistant to Emergency Management Agency Director Drew Mitchell.

He said advantages of the move would be that the 911 coordinator would continue being located near the dispatchers, since they are also moving from City Hall to the law enforcement center. And the position would also benefit from working more closely with Scherman and Mitchell.

“If Kathy wasn’t retiring I would have never brought this up, but with her retiring I think this is the progression that just makes sense,” Schwickerath said. “I can’t see any way that this doesn’t make sense.”

Charles City Council member Keith Starr, a member of the 911 board, responded, “I would have to say this doesn’t make sense to me at all.”

Starr said the position is working well the way it is now, there are unknown costs with a move, and the closeness of the 911 coordinator’s location to the dispatchers doesn’t really matter.

Herrick hasn’t been in physical contact with the dispatchers for almost a year because of COVID-19 restrictions, and it hasn’t effected the job,” Starr said.

“What you said made a lot of sense if it was 1960, but it’s not 1960 anymore,” Starr said, saying all the communication needed can be done electronically.

Starr also said the move Schwickerath suggested would add to taxpayer costs, because the Police Department would still need to hire a secretary, and the county’s other 60% of the 911 coordinator’s job would be a new position.

But Schwickerath said the county was going to be hiring someone to be a part-time assistant to Scherman and Mitchell whether the 911 coordinator moves or not.

“Just so you’re aware, the county is budgeting the money to do the 60% of this job no matter what,” he said.

Police Chief Hugh Anderson, who supervisors Herrick, also argued strongly against relocating the position.

Anderson said there were benefits to the 911 coordinator being located as part of the Police Department, and the transition to Herrick’s replacement would be seamless, because she would help train the new person before she left.

He also agreed that being located near the dispatchers was not important, noting that even the 911 Service Board meeting they were currently attending was being done by participants remotely over Zoom.

City Administrator Steve Diers agreed with Anderson, saying, “Everything you said there makes sense. It’s working pretty good and we’d like to be able to fill that police secretary position. Keith (Starr) mentioned it really is a position that works hand-in-hand with 911. They balance each other out. We ask that you consider keeping the situation the way it is.”

After the discussion ended, Schwickerath made a motion to move the position to the county. The motion passed 6-3, with Starr, Mitchell County 911 Coordinator Kris Olson and Rudd Mayor Jeffrey Buland voting no.

Voting to approve the move were Schwickerath; Floyd County Sheriff Jeff Crooks, Floyd County Emergency Management Director Drew Mitchell, Rockford Mayor Scott Johnson, Nora Springs Mayor Randy Hassman and Dougherty Mayor Lynn Nagel,

The Floyd County 911 Service Board is a state mandated board, one of those required in every county to implement 911 emergency phone services. It gets its funding from a $1 per month surcharge paid by every cellphone and land line phone registered in the county.

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