By Steve Woodhouse
Knoxville — Details as to the pay, structure and agreement with Jasper County in the formation of a hazardous material response team dominated the discussion at Thursday's Marion County Emergency Management Commission meeting.
The 11-member commission, which includes all nine mayors in the county (or their selected proxy), plus a representative from the Marion County Board of Supervisors and the sheriff, still has research to do before its next scheduled meeting on Jan. 29. Emergency Management Coordinator Jeff Anderson presented draft 28E agreements for the commission to sign with Jasper County, as well as pay proposals, a proposed structure for the team and individuals who have volunteered to join.
For several years, Marion County has had an agreement with the City of Des Moines to provide hazardous material response, in the event of a spill or another disaster that required cleanup. This agreement has become cost prohibitive, as it would cost Marion County $50,000 a year to continue the agreement. Anderson and EMC Chair Ron Goemaat researched possible agreements with other nearby agencies that could provide the same service. None of these were cost-effective. For instance, the City of Ottumwa would charge $1 per capita for 10 years, which would cost roughly $34,000 annually just for the agreement.
Jasper County has equipment to provide support to Marion County at minimal cost. The Marion County team is being formed to train to have the ability to respond first, then determine whether or not greater assistance from Jasper County would be necessary in a given emergency.
Anderson's proposal for the team - which has not been finalized or adopted by the commission - would divide Marion County into three sectors, each with its own team leader. The sections would be west, central and east. This is to help provide a faster response and, if a situation does not warrant calling all team members, take less manpower.
The proposed pay scale Anderson presented the commission included $16-21 per hour for training for a team leader ($15-20 for a hazmat technician) and $22-27 an hour for responses by team leaders ($21-26 for technicians).
Knoxville Interim Fire Chief Greg Higginbotham indicated those wages may not be enough. He believes pay needs to be higher to make it worth the team members' while. Anderson and the commission asked Higginbotham, and other firefighters present, to talk to their departments to make a pay recommendation.
Hazmat team members would be required to take 40 hours of training in the first year. Annual training after that would be 24 hours. It is still unclear whether or not this would be 24 hours in addition to training hours firefighters already take.
Higginbotham indicated that Knoxville's next, permanent fire chief, Nick Bonstall, supports a lot of training. Bonstall currently works with the Grand Rapids, Mich., hazmat response team and will be a member of the Marion County team when he arrives. Bonstall, though not expected to start his job in Knoxville until February, is in constant communication with Anderson and Higginbotham.
The costs of training, and the team overall, was questioned by Knoxville Assistant City Manager Dylan Feik. Anderson said the final structure, of how to pay for the team, is still open for discussion. He encouraged Feik and other municipal representatives present to talk with their respective city councils about what they would like to pay. Currently, Emergency Management receives funding through grants and the General Supplemental Fund levy in the county. Every property taxpayer in the county pays this levy.
There will also be costs for equipment. Firefighters are expected to discuss what they will need for the team and bring back recommendations. Anderson expects the team's equipment will be minimal, given the support of Jasper County and its resources and equipment.
Regardless of costs, this is an expense Goemaat feels is justified and cost-effective.
"We've got to have it," Goemaat said.
Proposed team members include:
Pella-Jeremy Scott, Jim Zylstra, Dave Cottington, Mike Branderhorst, Steve Bennett, Jason Schroeder, Lance Van Zee, Tom Van Woerkom, Chad Klein, Jeff Gritters, Randy Reineke and Brad Ter Louw.
Melcher-Dallas: Rodney Kennedy, Zack Kalvig and Jeff Bingham.
Knoxville Township FD: Dennis Williams, Calvin Kennedy, Bryan Schlotterback, Bob Pelong and Kenny Thompson.
Knoxville FD: Chris Camden and Ben Truetken.
Pella Community Ambulance: Ben Harmon and Dan Turner.
Marion County Sheriff's Office: Justin Kingery
Pleasantville Emergency Services: Scott Johnson, Todd Caulkins, Mark Clifton, Aaron Hurt, Brian Houser and Jordan Van Ness.
Bussey has no representatives. Anderson did not receive responses from Harvey, Clay Township or Columbia. He is waiting for names from Indiana Township.
Not every City was represented at the meeting. The City of Bussey, City of Hamilton, City of Swan and City of Marysville were not present. The supervisors were represented by Supervisor-elect Mark Raymie. Mayors present were Knoxville's Don Zoutte and Harvey's Dennis Seibert. Melcher-Dallas City Councilman Terry Fisher represented that community.
The commission was also presented new bylaws, to coincide with legislation passed this year. No action was taken on this.