County, city agree on 911 transfer costs

By RICHARD LUKEN
Register Reporter

An agreement between Allen County and Iola commissioners will ensure a smooth transition for dispatchers who will go from being city to county employees on Jan. 1, the 911 director said. At issue was the transfer of and compensation for employee benefits earned by the dispatchers while they are still city employees, said Angela Murphy.
As part of the agreement — unanimously approved by both commissions at separate meetings Tuesday — the city will encourage dispatchers to use up as much personal leave, comp time and holiday leave prior to Jan. 1 as possible. Unused leave will be paid for by the city.
The county will assume responsibility for accrued sick leave, as long as the employees meet certain provisions, such as staying with the county for at least five years.
In addition, funds left in the city’s dispatch account at the end of the year — between $20,000 and $23,000 — will be split by the governments 50-50.
Murphy was eager to see both sides come to an agreement. Some dispatchers had grown anxious, she said, because of the looming transition with no certainty regarding their unused benefits.
“It was a little nerve-racking for everybody,” she said.
Murphy added that while the dispatchers officially become county employees Jan. 1, they will not move into the new Allen County Critical Response Center on North State Street until Jan. 28, two weeks later than anticipated. The delay is necessary because AT&T, installing much of the communications equipment, will not have the center online by Jan. 14, Murphy said.
County refurbishing of the old Heartland Electric Cooperative building will be complete in time for the transition, Murphy said.

IN A RELATED matter, the county formally approved a land swap with Heartland.
As part of the swap, the county will acquire the rest of nearly 5 acres of Heartland property on North State Street, including a building that will serve as the county’s new ambulance station.
In exchange, the county gave over its land along U.S. 54 in Gas to the electric cooperative, and paid Heartland an additional $200,000.
The county also assumes ownership of a third Heartland building to the north of the Critical Response Center but has not yet decided what to do with the structure.