Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
FAIRFIELD — The Jefferson County Board of Supervisors has put forward a new proposal for funding the 911 dispatch center.
The supervisors have offered to convert the Jefferson County Law Center into a county-run service whereby the dispatchers are county employees instead of employees of the City of Fairfield as they are now.
In a letter dated Jan. 5 and signed by all three supervisors — Dee Sandquist, Daryn Hamilton and Susie Drish — the county laid out its position for what it believes to be a fair and efficient way of funding 911. Under the proposal, the county would employ dispatch personnel, and the city would pay the county a percentage of the cost of personnel and equipment based on the percent of the county’s population that lives in Fairfield (60 percent based on 2020 census).
Services would be funded through the county’s general fund levy, which is spread to all county residents. The Board of Supervisors would be responsible for the levy through the normal general fund levy process.
In the letter, the supervisors address the Fairfield City Council’s resolution from Dec. 27 recommending that 911 dispatch be paid for through an emergency management levy, and that the dispatchers remain city employees. This would differ from the current arrangement where the city and county share the costs of the dispatch center, with the county paying for most of the equipment and the city paying the personnel costs.
The supervisors wrote, “The County Supervisors cannot justify taxing County residents and the residents of other towns in the County in order to pay the salaries of Fairfield employees.”
The supervisors said they do not support the council’s idea of an emergency management levy to fund the dispatch center. They said that because funding the dispatch center involves taxing the public, it’s important that decisions over those funds be made in a way that can answer to the voters.
“Non-city residents should not pay for salaries and benefits for City employees since they have no ability to vote on the elected positions which determine the salary and benefits for those employees,” the letter reads.
Under the city’s proposal, the Emergency Management Commission would be responsible for administering the levy to fund the dispatch center.
“If a decision is made regarding these funds that is unpopular with the voters, their only recourse would be to vote out their specific representative on the nine-member board,” the letter reads, referring to the board’s composition of the mayors or designated representatives of the towns in the county.
The supervisors argued that it makes more sense for the Board of Supervisors to administer the dispatch center since the supervisors are answerable to all voters in the county.
Two representatives of the county supervisors and two representatives of the Fairfield City Council met for a service agency meeting on Jan. 7 where the county laid out its proposal. Sandquist said it was clear from the discussion that the city still favors an emergency management levy. The service agency will meet again for further budgetary discussion on Tuesday, Jan. 18. Sandquist said she hopes negotiations can continue, and the county and city can continue the effective cooperation they’ve had for many decades.
Call Andy Hallman at 641-575-0135 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org