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home : news : news Friday, April 29, 2016

2/9/2013 Email this articlePrint this article 
Commission approves operations officer for Emergency Management Agency

By Jeremy Huss
Staff writer

In a split vote Feb. 6, the Clinton County Emergency Management Commission approved adding a third full-time staff member to the Emergency Management Agency (EMA), a move that will increase the county's emergency management levy by 2 cents.

The commission in an 8-6 vote approved the budget proposal presented by EMA director Chance Kness, which includes $57,936.56 to pay salaries and benefits for a full-time operations officer.

With the additional staff member, the only substantial change in the FY 2014 budget, EMA will have a total budget of $499,406.19, an increase of 13.29 percent over the current year. The figure does not include the budget for Clinton County Communications, which is approved by a separate commission but is automatically added to the EMA's overall budget.

Kness said Feb. 6 the Clinton County Communications Commission has approved a final budget of $986,507.

Kness told commissioners at a budget session in January the operations officer is needed to help EMA manage increased responsibilities and to ensure the county's emergency response isn't hampered if Kness or plans officer Jennifer Paukner are unavailable due to travel, illness or vacation.

The operations officer will be responsible for the maintenance of all emergency management equipment, including 18 sirens, two trailers and one vehicle. He or she would have additional office responsibilities and will be tasked with responding on behalf of the EMA when Kness is unavailable.

The additional staff member also will take over medical examiner administration duties currently being overseen by Kim Ralston, director of community assistance programs in the county mental health department.

The medical examiner administrator is responsible for budgeting, scheduling, paying claims and van maintenance, which takes an estimated 10 hours per week.

Although commissioners debated the need for the third position at the January meeting, there was little discussion on the proposal at the Feb. 6 budget hearing.

Clinton mayor Mark Vulich was the only member to publicly stake out a position prior to the vote, saying he can't support a levy increase because Clinton already is looking at a 60-80 cent increase in its debt service levy.

"Since we're looking at budget cutbacks, I can't vote for anything that increases the levy," Vulich said.

He was joined in his opposition by representatives from Calamus, Grand Mound, Lost Nation, Welton, Wheatland, all voting "no" on the budget as presented.

Voting in favor were representatives from Camanche, Charlotte, Delmar, DeWitt, Goose Lake, Low Moor, Clinton County Board of Supervisors and the Clinton County sheriff's office.

Andover representative Dan Bott was unable to vote because he is an appointed official with the volunteer fire department, not an elected official. A recent change in state law allows only elected officials to vote on budget decisions for the commission.

The budget includes a 3 percent raise for the EMA director as mandated by Kness' three-year contract, which is in its final year, a 2 percent salary increase for the plans officer and minor adjustments to a handful of line items.

It includes a slight increase for telephone services offset by reduced requests for support personnel, vehicle repair and maintenance and siren maintenance.

Kness said he plans to conduct interviews for the new position in April and May and make a conditional offer of employment by June 7.

Generator grant program gets new name, expanded scope

The commission approved renaming the three-year old generator grant program to "the emergency management grant program" to reflect the fact it is being expanded to pay for additional equipment related to emergency response and public safety.

The EMA allocates $200,000 to the grant program annually for matching grants to assist Clinton County communities purchase and install backup generators for essential infrastructure and community shelters in case of a power outage.

In the past, the program also has funded a request for a rescue boat for the conservation department, and commission chair Jill Davisson said additional requests are being received for non-generator equipment.

Funding applications for FY 2014 include a request for an ATV for rescue and special events from the city of Clinton and a request for a law enforcement command board for the DeWitt Police Department's incident command system.

County supervisor John Staszewski said he was OK with changing the scope of the program as long as generators retain priority in funding.

DeWitt mayor Don Thiltgen supported the change.

"There are different apparatus and items than can be useful to the small communities," he said, adding the grant subcommittee can review the applications and set priorities for funding.

Kness said the commission laid out priorities and qualifying criteria two years ago, but Davisson said she'd like to revisit the list.

Commissioners approved the name change unanimously with the caveat the subcommittee will produce new guidelines and distribute them to the full commission for review.

Election of officers

In other business, the commission elected county supervisor Brian Schmidt as chairman and re-elected Thiltgen as vice chair. Davisson said she wanted someone else to take over because she won't be running for re-election when her term as supervisor expires in 2014.

"I've only got a year left. I think it's time for somebody else to learn," Davisson said.

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