The reorganization of the Decorah dispatch center is moving forward.
Spillville Mayor Mike Klimesh informed the Winneshiek County Board of Supervisors Monday morning the Winneshiek County Emergency Management Commission voted unanimously last week to proceed with taking over management of the dispatch center. Klimesh and County Emergency Management Coordinator Sean Snyder provided the county officials with an update.
They met with supervisors last month to let them know the Commission was interested in pursuing having the dispatch center and employees under Emergency Management. The county would become the employer “of record” for those employees and costs would be covered under a “hybrid” funding stream from the county and the city: 55 percent county and 45 percent city of Decorah.

Klimesh said an intergovernmental 28E agreement would begin Jan. 1 for the management of the Dispatch Center and involve Snyder, Sheriff Dan Marx and Decorah Police Chief Dave Smutzler. They would be responsible for daily op erations, including hiring, firing, and disciplinary actions from Jan. 1 through July 1.
“We’d have six months to give it a trial run – it will give us a good opportunity to work the bugs out,” he said.
That management committee will answer to the Emergency Management Commission directly, Klimesh said. The Commission is made up of all the mayors in the county, Supervisor Mark Kuhn and Sheriff Marx. Klimesh is the Commission’s liaison to the Board of Supervisors.
The dispatch center would officially be acquired by the Emergency Management Commission July 1 – the start of the new fiscal year.
Decorah City Council member Steve Luse informed the Council Monday night transference of the dispatch center will require notifying the dispatchers’ current union. The Council approved notifying the dispatchers’ union the city intends to discontinue dispatch operations. After the transition to the Emergency Management Commission is completed, if employees wish to form a collective bargaining unit (union), they will negotiate with the Emergency Management Commission for their contract, according to Winneshiek County Auditor Ben Steines.

Equipment, staff
Klimesh also addressed needed infrastructure for the county’s 911 emergency system. He said MiEnergy Electric Cooperative is putting up four new towers and will provide free space for 911 equipment in exchange for the space on the county’s emergency 911 tower near Bodensteiner Implement.
“Sean worked with MiEnergy on a sweet deal for the county,” Klimesh said.
To assist the 911 Board in equipping those towers, the county would borrow $1 million as a “shot in the arm.” He said going forward, the 911 Board would have the money to pay for replacement of 911 equipment that has less than a 15-year lifespan.
Kuhn said the county is fortunate to have the towers available for equipment that will improve 911 service.
“It’s a good thing for Winneshiek County,” he said.
Klimesh said other plans include adding a dispatcher to the staff so that during “critical times” there will be two dispatchers on duty instead of one.
“That will be a huge improvement,” he said.

The impact of the planned change will result in an additional 18 cents per $1,000 in the county’s levy, Klimesh said. He noted 6 cents of that levy is a temporary levy to pay for new 911 equipment.
Klimesh said for his house in Spillville, that would add an additional $13.74 to his property tax bill for the year and for the farm Kuhn owns in Fort Atkinson, it would result in an additional $21 per year. Klimesh said for the business he runs in Calmar, Graphics Inc., the property tax bill would increase $32 for the year.
Board of Supervisors Chairman John Logsdon told Klimesh a lot of work has been put into the dispatch center transition.
“I think this is a pretty good move for the safety of life and limb and property in the county. Eighteen cents is a bargain,” Logsdon said.
Klimesh thanked the supervisors for their involvement in the process.
“We’re all in this together,” Klimesh said.

Decorah mayor
The city of Decorah initiated discussions with the Winneshiek County Emergency Management Commission to assume management of the Decorah Communications (Dispatch) Center in an effort to provide for more efficient operations and equitable financing of dispatching services throughout Winneshiek County, according to Decorah Mayor Lorraine Borowski.
This center provides for all 911 emergency, as well as non-emergency calls, throughout the county.
“The current operational annual budget of the Decorah Communications Center is based off an ‘annual call for service model’ split between the Decorah Police Department and the Winneshiek County Sheriff’s Office,” Borowski said Tuesday.
“Not all emergency response departments contribute to the annual operating dispatch budget. A new proposed model would allow for a more equitable cost share between the city of Decorah, the Winneshiek County Sheriff’s Office and the Winneshiek County Emergency Management Commission,” she said.
“Through a countywide EMA levy, we would increase property taxes by 18 cents per $1,000 of assessed value across Winneshiek County. In doing this 18-cent increase, we are now able to make dispatch more equitable and improve our current 911 system infrastructure. This infrastructure includes four potential 911 communication towers and all of their equipment. Both the city of Decorah and the Winneshiek County Emergency Management Commission continue to look for ways to create a better continuation of government,” Borowski said.
The Decorah mayor said the Council appreciates the value of an integrated service system that has the ability to access additional funding sources.
“Further work is being done insuring a smooth lateral transfer of the dispatch staff by the end of the fiscal year,” she said.