Pella Chronicle

Community News Network

December 20, 2012

Mahaska County gives green light to Haz Mat study

OSKALOOSA — The Mahaska County Board of Supervisors gave the green light Wednesday to Emergency Management Coordinator Jamey Robinson to continue the study of creating a Mahaska County Haz Mat team.

“We’ve been working on a Haz Mat team for a couple of years,” Robinson said.

Mahaska County currently works with the CERT team from Ottumwa to provide hazardous materials clean-ups. The Mahaska County Emergency Management Board would like to provided those services closer to home.

Robinson presented the supervisors with an initial plan and Oskaloosa Fire Chief Mark Neff and Sheriff Paul DeGeest were on hand to field questions.

Neff said the Mahaska County Haz Mat team would have 20 members from the fire departments throughout the county. Whether they are volunteers or paid firefighters, they would only be paid for their Haz Mat duty when they receive a call, he added.

Supervisor Ken Rozenboom asked what would be the criteria for calling in the Haz Mat team.

Neff said the on-scene commander would make the determination whether he had the resources to handle a situation, or call for additional personnel and equipment.

“We’re not trying to make this a revenue generating source,” Neff said.

Rozenboom asked if other neighboring counties or communities could be brought into the group.

Robinson said Marion County is looking at doing the same thing as Mahaska County. Poweshiek and Keokuk counties could be possible partners in the future.

“I don’t want Mahaska Haz Mat to turn into CERT,” Robinson said. “I just want to take care of us first.”

“I think we’re heading in the right direction,” Rozenboom said.

Board Chairman Greg Gordy asked whose employees the Haz Mat team would be when they are called up.

“My office does the billing,” Robinson said.

Gordy also said insurance and liability issues need to be studied.

DeGeest said he agreed with Gordy that the insurance issue needs to be studied.

The supervisors agreed that the Haz Mat team concept needs to move forward.

“It needs to move forward,” Supervisor Willie VanWeelden said.

“I’ll give a green light,” Rozenboom said.

The supervisors unanimously approved the Haz Mat team study.

In other action, the supervisors discussed mental health funding concerns with Central Point Coordinator Julie Bak and DeGeest.

Bak said that due to upcoming state cuts on July 1, 2013, the sheriff’s mental health transportation budget will be increased by $40,000.

DeGeest said that when he receives a mental health transportation court order, he has no choice in the matter.

“I never had to budget for it in the past,” he said.

The supervisors will tackle the issue when they do budget hearings in early 2013.

The supervisors also approved the appointment of Shawn Langkamp to the Board of Health. They also set Jan. 21, 2013, as the date for a public hearing on a General Relief ordinance.

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