Dispatch disconnect for county, Waterloo

Monday’s meeting of the Monroe County Board was the scene of vehement disagreement concerning the amount Waterloo pays for its emergency dispatching services provided by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department.  

The issue first arose in April when Monroe County Sheriff Neal Rohlfing told commissioners the cost of taking emergency calls for Waterloo was much greater than what the city was reimbursing the county. He told commissioners then that based on call volume, Waterloo should be supporting the cost of three of his department’s eight full-time dispatchers.  

The new amount Rohlfing recommended was $195,235.91 for Waterloo’s share in the coming fiscal year. An invoice for that amount was submitted to Waterloo for May 1.

Rohlfing also said in April that this issue had not been revisited since 2011, although the Republic-Times has learned that incremental increases have been implemented to compensate for dispatching staff salary raises.   

Waterloo Alderman Steve Notheisen delivered an impassioned statement to the commissioners Monday, citing numerous reasons why this requested increase was unjustified. He said the new amount would mean Waterloo would pay a higher rate per call than other users of the system and characterized the increase as a “money grab.”  

Notheisen said the increase would mean Waterloo was paying for services rendered to other government units.

Monroe County State’s Attorney Chris Hitzemann said any insinuation the county was trying to fleece Waterloo is “absurd,” making several responses to issues raised by Notheisen.  

Monroe County Sheriff’s Department Maj. Jim Lansing, in Rohlfing’s absence, strongly disagreed with Notheisen at the meeting. Lansing said the increasing number of calls received by dispatchers from within the city were out of proportion to the costs of dealing with them.  

Notheisen said he would re-examine some of his data after the discussion.    

It was noted that Rohlfing and Waterloo Mayor Tom Smith have not met face-to-face to discuss this matter. 

Commissioner Ron Schultheis characterized a major cause of the disagreement as there being “no communication between City Hall and the sheriff’s department.”

The commissioners called for direct contact and discussion between the sheriff and city to build understanding and seek a solution.

Smith said the agreement from 2011 was a verbal agreement and at that time, Waterloo increased its support for dispatching by 46 percent. He also said figures he has received from the sheriff’s department do not support the position that Waterloo’s call volume has increased to the numbers claimed.

At Monday’s city council meeting, Smith appointed aldermen Notheisen and Stan Darter to meet with the commissioners in an effort to come up with an official contract for dispatching services.

“We want a written contract to eliminate this from happening again in the future,” Smith said.

Monroe County Treasurer Kevin Koenigstein told the Republic-Times that he has not yet received the two most recent payments (May and June) for dispatching from Waterloo.

Also at the meeting, Koenigstein discussed the upcoming property tax cycle, noting the number crunching process that will lead to printing tax bills is proceeding. He estimates tax bills will be out in September, with payments due in October and November.  

The process is complex,  Koenigstein said, incorporating 40 taxing units and requiring some 19,000 tax bills to be printed and mailed individually.

Monroe County Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Edie Koch updated commissioners on her group’s efforts over the past year and received a renewal of county support for the coming year.

Koch cited recent developments including building inventory of available development sites in the state’s online data base and news from Budnick Converting in Columbia of an $8 million investment and 10 new jobs added to 100 existing positions. 

She also noted progress on the enterprise zone application process.  

The commissioners discussed hiring a full-time employee to oversee county information technology resources. The work would include acquiring and installing computer and related equipment, a task now executed under a contract with Americom.

Monroe County Clerk Jonathan McLean volunteered both to help develop a list of qualifications required for the position and also said his office could contribute some funding for a salary since that cannot be budgeted until the new fiscal year. 

Monroe County Engineer Aaron Metzger informed commissioners of the coming resignation  on Aug. 19 of long-time Road District 4 Commissioner Jim Kuehner, noting his approximately 40 years of service. Metzger and the commissioners discussed the process to appoint a replacement to serve until the next election.

Janel Holmes of Waterloo was reappointed to the Monroe County Board of Health for a two-year term.

The next meeting of the Monroe County Board takes place at 8:15 a.m. Monday,  Aug. 19 at the courthouse. 

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Alan Dooley

Alan is a photojournalist -- he both shoots pictures and writes for the R-T. A 31-year Navy vet, he has lived worldwide, but with his wife Sherry, calls a rambling house south of Waterloo home. Alan counts astronomy as a hobby and is fascinated by just about everything scientific.
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