Officials discuss locking up 28E agreement

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Officials discuss locking up 28E agreement

By Mike Van Sickle
Union editor

Insurance coverage, the number of personnel a formal agreement would require, and related expenses continue to be the main topics of discussion between Fayette County officials and city leaders in negotiating a potential 28E agreement between the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office and any interested cities within the boundaries of the county.

Fayette County Supervisors Darrel Dolf and Vicki Rowland were joined by Fayette County Sheriff Marty Fisher and attorney Dave Katsumes of Elgin in leading the discussion at the Fayette County Courthouse on Wednesday, April 3. Approximately 30 people, including representatives from a dozen Fayette County communities, attended the meeting.

“We tried to make this (28E agreement) happen in 2010,” explained Rowland, “but talks bogged down after concerns were raised by the county’s insurance provider in regard to liability issues. Their (Heartland Insurance) attorney recommended the County be held harmless, while the cities felt they should be held harmless in any potential lawsuits.”

Rowland noted that in 2011, attorney Carlton Salmons suggested that as an option, the County and participating cities could allow the courts to decide the liability issue in any potential lawsuits in the future.  

“But the attorney seemed to forget this third option when it came up later in discussions,” Rowland admitted.

The Clermont woman reported Thursday that Salmons most recently has agreed to reconsider the latter option.

At the same time, the two Supervisors acknowledged the concerns of Fisher to adequately staff enough deputies to patrol a large number of communities.

Fisher reported that currently the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office employs nine deputies to patrol, serve papers, haul prisoners, etc., 24 hours/seven days per week.

“These are not the same people we dealt with 20 to 30 years ago. We have new people relocating to the area,” said Fisher, while noting a dramatic increase in crime in recent years, including a murder, bank robbery, and a rash of drug arrests and burglaries in the past year. 

“When I started in law enforcement, most communities had an officer on duty. We are still patrolling the entire county and assist communities with law enforcement,” continued Fisher, who has over 36 years of law enforcement experience in Fayette County. “Now it is getting dangerous for my deputies out there without any backup.”

Fisher estimated the annual cost of hiring additional deputies (and related costs) would be approximately $86,000. West Union Mayor Kent Halverson expressed his concern that, no matter the decision for a potential 28E agreement between the County and participating cities, the County maintain a sufficient amount of funding for public safety for the benefit of all residents.  

The city representatives were informed by the county officials that, according to Iowa code, cities are required to have hired law enforcement or have an entity under contract.

After fielding budget questions, the Supervisors acknowledged that some counties do provide law enforcement monies out of the rural services fund.

A number of city leaders and/or their insurance providers in the audience questioned why the cities should pay for county law enforcement coverage under a 28E agreement and at the same time take the risk of being held liable in the case of potential lawsuits.

The county and city officials intend to continue discussing a potential 28E agreement at a later date.

 
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