FD, county consider E911 changes

Mayor Bemrich: Cooperation could make more funding available

By updating agreements that govern 911 response and emergency management in Webster County, the county and all towns within it could be eligible for more funding for public safety improvements, according to Fort Dodge Mayor Matt Bemrich.

Bemrich and other Fort Dodge officials asked for help from the Webster County Board of Supervisors in getting together the other towns to take a look at the agreements governing Emergency Management, the Telecom Board, and the E911 board.

Any changes would involve the county and all towns within the county, Bemrich said.

“All three of these organizations have bylaws and 28E agreements incorporated into them that are old. Some of them date back into the 70s,” said Bemrich. “They have not been brought up to current practices.”

There would be many advantages to updating these, Bemrich said. For one thing, there are United States Department of Agriculture grants, low-interest loans, and other programs Fort Dodge isn’t eligible for alone. Updated agreements would allow more cooperation between all jurisdictions to possibly win loans and grants.

“I’m here today to suggest and ask if the county would help coordinate the small municipalities, the city of Fort Dodge, and your board itself to work collectively to update those 28E agreements, update those bylaws and those organizations, make sure those boards are being representative of those unincorporated jurisdictions, and make sure those are living up to their full potential,” he said.

Supervisor Merrill Leffler is the supervisor who sits on the telecom, E911, and emergency management boards.

“I’m a member on all those boards. I appreciate Matt coming here because most of these I agree with him,” Leffler said. “This has been a topic of discussion, that a lot of the documents for these boards are just outdated. People don’t know who’s serving, who’s doing what, so I think we have an underlying problem here.”

Fort Dodge Police Chief Roger Porter agreed.

“Just to reiterate, I’ve had some conversations with Sheriff (Jim) Stubbs recently over some of these things. I think the biggest thing is like you said, there’s a lot of confusions on different boards,” Porter said. “I’m fairly new to these boards, so I’m learning as I’m going, and the confusion was there for me as well.”

The newly available funds could be used for updated radios, Bemrich said, getting everyone in the county using the same system; they could be used for computer systems, hardware or even software updates, or to improve medical dispatch.

“There are some major things coming up there,” Leffler said. “Especially with radio operations coming up, we’re talking hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

“Probably millions,” Bemrich said.

Fort Dodge Fire Chief Steve Hergenreter said he’d like to look at adding fire and EMS agencies to some of the boards.

“Currently the fire service of Webster County and EMS has no representation. Sometimes we attend as visitors and try to give input,” Hergenreter said.

Webster County is not meeting the national standard in fire service protection or in EMS, as measured by outside organizations, he said.

Getting better cooperative agreements in place to move ahead could also help Webster County if future changes happen in the state, Bemrich said.

“If we’re ahead of that curve as regionalization starts pushing its head into the jurisdictions that abut Webster County,” he said, “we may be poised to … help the smaller counties around us facilitate their programs as well.”