County splits EMA, E-911 to save money

Published 9:55 pm Monday, May 11, 2009

The county will soon have both an emergency management agency director and an E-911 director, after the commission made the decision to split the position Monday.

County administrator Brenda Petty informed the E911 board of the commission’s impending decision Thursday, after it was determined that continuing to combine the two positions was “not economically feasible or cost effective.”

For the past nine years, the county and the E-911 board have operated under an agreement which combined the two jobs and the county paid rent to the E-911 board for the use of space for EMA. Separating the jobs is expected to save the county between $16,000 and $24,000 annually.

Monday, Petty said another motivator for the split, outside of the cost savings to the county, is the requirement of a flood plain management monitor — a position normally held by the county engineer.

“The governor signed legislation about our unit system on May 5,” she said. “The flood plain management ordinance is in direct conflict with the duties of the act. The engineer needs to spend all of its time on the unit system. The responsibility of the flood plain management (would be transferred) to the EMA director.”

E911 board chairman Cody Ward said he thought the county was “getting a pretty good deal” in paying $800 a month in expenses that included rent on office space and utilities, as well as the use of a vehicle.

“I think that’s a pretty good deal,” Ward said. “We don’t have the luxury of getting 50 percent of a director’s salary reimbursed by the state. EMA has the luxury of 13 (E911) employees who help EMA in the time of a disaster. With the split, they won’t have that luxury. I think things like that you ought to consider before making a final decision.”

Ward said that while he personally disagreed, his board would support the commission’s decision.

At present, the E911 board pays approximately 30 percent of the director’s salary. The remaining 70 percent is funded through the county — 50 percent of which is reimbursed by the state. The E911 board also pays all health insurance benefits for the director — $4,300 annually, Ward said.

Either the EMA or E911 will soon be without a director, depending on which position the current EMA/E911 director Kristi Stamnes chooses to maintain.

“We will still have to pay health insurance, and the amount we pay for the 911 side is going to have to be significant to keep anyone,” Ward said. “I just think we can give a better product like it is now than if it’s split up.”

However, the commission did not agree with Ward’s position and voted unanimously to split the two positions.

Ward and another E911 board member were scheduled to meet Monday to discuss a salary package for the E911 director position. It will be presented at 9 a.m. today, Tues., May 12, in an open meeting.

Stamnes said she is waiting to see what the E911 board proposes before deciding which position she will take.