By Steve Woodhouse
There are already 26 volunteers in Marion County interested in taking hazardous materials (hazmat) training classes to form a preliminary response team.
Until last year, Marion County had an agreement with Des Moines, in which the capital city provided hazmat assistance to the county for a fee. The County was unhappy with that agreement and did not renew. Since then, Jasper County has been designated as the hazmat team that will be contacted in the event assistance is needed here.
Jasper County will continue to serve in this role, but Marion County Emergency Management Coordinator Jeff Anderson believes it will be beneficial to have a team here. Jasper County is willing to offer training and is eager to enter into a new agreement with Marion County.
Anderson recommended to the Board of Supervisors at a special meeting on Wednesday that they authorize him to form a local team, authorize the MC Emergency Management Commission to be designated as the body to oversee this team, enter into an agreement with Jasper County for backup and for the EMC to use money available to pay for training and equipment. Negotiations between Jasper and Marion Counties for an overarching agreement will be negotiated by the supervisors of both counties.
Jasper County has larger equipment available to be used by Marion County. The overarching agreement will include the stipend Marion will pay Jasper for having this equipment available.
Jasper also has a levy of five cents per $1,000 of taxable valuation to support its hazmat team. This raises $50,000 annually for the Jasper team. Marion has made no decision regarding another levy, and due to Marion's higher property tax values, it may not be necessary.
“The $50,000 is what (Jasper) has determined they need,” Anderson said.
Harvey Mayor Dennis Siebert, who serves on the Marion County EMC, supports the idea of forming a local hazmat team. The EMC is comprised of all of the mayors in the county, the sheriff and a representative of the Board of Supervisors. Sheriff Ron Goemaat, chair of the EMC, believes that with Marion County's industrial base, railroads and four-lane highways, having its own hazmat team is a good idea.
“The response time would be greatly enhanced,” Goemaat said. He went on to say that those who would receive hazmat training are already first responders, and would be qualified to make the decision whether or not more resources or equipment is necessary to handle a situation.
Anderson said he intends to meet with Jasper County today (Friday, Nov. 2). If action on the hazmat team proceeds accordingly, Anderson hopes to hold the training in January and have the hazmat team in operation by March.
Objections to the construction of a new hog confinement outside Pella have come into the Marion County Board of Supervisors, but the board really has no power to stop it.
Letters received in opposition of the construction of such a facility will be included in the documentation submitted to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The final decision whether or not a confinement can be built will be decided by the DNR, not the County.
“The bottom line will come from the Department of Natural Resources,” Marion County Environmental Health Director Cory Frank said.
Documentation is due to the DNR on Monday. The final location for the hog confinement has not been determined. It may be built in Mahaska County, not Marion. Nevertheless, neighbors are concerned that the smell associated with the confinement could still reach their homes.
No action was taken regarding the hog confinement.