Dallke raises EMS issues in wake of Larsen firing
Commissioner Randy Dallke used the backdrop of a bleak economy and uncertain finances to pull back the reins Friday on raises for elected officials, and fellow commissioners climbed on board, chopping $1,500 off the $7,500 they plugged into the budget approved in August.
A $6,000 raise for clerk, treasurer, attorney, sheriff, and register of deeds was locked in for two years, with a salary review at the end of that period.
Commission chairman Dan Holub opened the discussion arguing for the full $7,500, based on wanting to be “fair” in comparison to salaries paid in other counties.
“This would bring it up to the middle,” Holub said.
Dallke took issue with using the salary survey without considering conditions in the county.
“That survey didn’t have a thing to do with what’s going on with our schools or communities,” he said. “I’d love to have 20 businesses move into my county next year. You heard the superintendent (USD 398’s Ron Traxson) sitting right over there and say, ‘When was the last new house built in Peabody?’ Twelve years ago. Florence, longer than that. I’m just seeing that we’re not in the same trend. Things were a whole lot different 10 years ago.”
“The economy has changed, and that weighs heavily on my mind,” he said. “In a little over two months the legislature is back in session, and that’s never good. That’s like Damacles’s sword on a rotting tether and it’s going to drop one of these days.”
Commissioner Lori Lalouette expressed concern about possible public reaction.
“I know where the wages are, but I’m a little hesitant to come in at the higher end just because of the perception,” she said.
Holub budged slightly, proposing $6,500 locked in over three years. After more discussion, Dallke responded with a counterproposal of $6,000 for two years, which was adopted.
“I’d like to give them $10,000,” Dallke said, “but I look at the way things are happening.”
Dallke addressed anxieties expressed by Peabody residents about the security of ambulance services after commissioners fired Peabody paramedic Larry Larsen last week. Uncertainty was heightened when the ambulance was taken from Peabody for inventory and replaced only with a sign saying the unit wouldn’t be based in Peabody anymore.
“A general message to the Peabody public: Ambulance service will be there,” Dallke said.
He suggested the time is ripe for a thorough analysis of how EMS operates.
“We’ve tried a lot of things in the last 15 years,” he said. “Marion County is charged with having an ambulance service. It doesn’t say how many, it doesn’t say where to put them,”
Dallke pointed to a decline in volunteer personnel as reason enough to look to the future for alternatives.
“We had a crew of 15 to 20 people in Peabody; now it’s down to six,” he said. “Even to get EMT certification in six to eight months, two nights a week. It’s a tough situation. There are good volunteers out there, but they’re being worked to their max. It’s a subject that needs to be addressed now before it gets to zero in your town.”
In other business:
- Plans for replacing courthouse windows were reviewed with Treanor Architects. Commissioners requested development of bids based on a renewal package estimated to cost between $800,000 and $1 million, agreeing that investing more up front will save money later.
- Cook, Flatt and Strobel Engineers was awarded a $2,850 contract to conduct state-mandated inspections of 19 bridges.
- Holub announced he would discuss county issues at a public forum 7 p.m. Saturday at Marion County Park and Lake Hall.