Barnes County Commissioners voted to send notice to Valley City regarding termination of the existing 9-1-1 contract during their regular meeting on Jan. 8.
According to State’s Attorney, Lee Grossman, the old contract, which dates from the 1990s, needed to be updated regardless of whether the 9-1-1 system is taken over by Barnes County.
The current contract, as it is written, will end on July 16.
Commissioners also considered pay and benefits for city employed 9-1-1 dispatchers who may become county employees if Barnes County takes over day-to-day operations of the 9-1-1 system.
Barnes County Emergency Manager Kim Franklin explained that her wage proposal would bring city dispatchers up to the same as current county employees and an additional eight cents per hour would make up for life insurance that city employees currently have but the county doesn’t offer.
Commissioner John Froelich, who is opposed to Barnes County taking control of the 9-1-1 system told the commissioners that he would vote for the pay package only after a control shift was imminent.
Currently, one of the city employees has a health insurance policy for one plus one dependent, a policy not offered by the county. For that employee to subscribe to a family policy would cost $1,200 per year more.
Commissioner Phil Leitner commented that $1,200 is a lot of money for someone making $15 per hour.
“Well, if we compensate that individual $1,200, then we’re going to have whole bunch of other county employees wanting the same thing,” said Commissioner Eldred Knutson.
According to Knutson, Grossman assured him that no compensation package will be exactly the same as a former employer’s.
“We’re going to do the best we possibly can,” said Knutson. “If you feel like we need to donate an additional $1,200 for the one person, then you’re going to be paying out a lot more to county employees.”
Franklin will continue checking into insurance options.
The commission held off on voting on a financial package for now, but instructed Franklin that she could use her figures to make county dispatchers aware of what the county plans too offer for pay and benefits.
Franklin also announced that she was meeting with Stutsman County on Wednesday to discuss joining the 9-1-1 system Stutsman and Richland Counties share.
Commissioner Cindy Schwehr pointed out that Barnes County would still need its own equipment if it were to join Stutsman and Richland Counties. Barnes County would still be responsible for setting up local work stations with compatible computer equipment.
“Another problem with joining Stutsman and Richland Counties is that they want to know who’s in charge,” said Franklin.
“The county is in charge,” said Froelich. “It’s just contracted out for the city to run. The only issue with the city is, as I understand it, is if we want to run it on a day-to-day basis then we can pay for the whole works like Stutsman pays over there.”
“What we want them to stand on their own two feet,” said Knutson.
“Well, it functions on its own now,” replied Froelich.