Mahaska County Board of Supervisors

Supervisors, from left, Mark Groenendyk, Steve Wanders and Steve Parker meet in a regular meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 21.

MAHASKA COUNTY — The Mahaska County Board of Supervisors has decided to ask the court for more clarity for issues related to funding Mahaska County 911.

In December of 2019, the district court ruled that a 2015 28E agreement between the Mahaska County E99 Service Board and the Mahaska County EMA Commission was void and unable to be enforced.

Mahaska County Supervisors Chair Mark Groenendyk said it was his understanding that since the contract was void, the EMA has no authority to require the county to fund 911.

“Part of the question is how are we going to fund 911 until July 1,” he said. “We do have a signed contract with the cities to provide 911 service through the original 28E. The court acknowledged that was a contract.”

Groenendyk said the supervisors were concerned with potential liability issues.

So now the question becomes how do we want to fund 911.

“If we continue to give money to them, are we in violation of a contract,” he asked.

Mahaska County Attorney Andrew Ritland said as he understood it, when the levies to fund 911 were collected, some of those funds have not yet been disbursed.

“So we’re talking about levies that were collected while the contract that is now ruled void was in existence. So I believe the point Mark is trying to make is the money that got collected under a levy that was pursuant to avoid contract, a lot of that levy was defined in 911 services,” he said. “What do we do with the money in-hand now. That money would be used to fund the 911 services for the remainder of this fiscal year. So I’m assuming it’s a pretty urgent question, because they need that money to operate.”

The next payment, Groenendyk said, was scheduled for the first of March.

That timeframe, Ritland said, was very tight to get a ruling from the courts.

“So you can try to get a ruling but it’s possible you may not get a ruling until after March 1,” he said. “That’s very realistic. Courts don’t usually operate on that type of timeframe you’re currently thinking about.”

Ritland said there are two important questions that are unclear.

“One, even if the voting is proper, can the entities combine? [The judge] didn’t answer that question. We don’t know if there is an issue with delegation of authority. There may or may not be, but the court didn’t decide the matter one way or the other. So we just don’t know those sort of things,” he said. “We don’t know if, from the court’s perspective, whether these entities can create a 28E. That was, again, raised in the underlying litigation but wasn’t answered.”

As long as those issues remain unresolved, Ritland said, there will be ongoing uncertainty in the process.

The supervisors will inquire what to do with the money that is currently in-hand to finish out this fiscal year and will find out if going forward, the propriety of the current arrangement.

County employee healthcare

No decision was made by the supervisors regarding county employees’ healthcare plans. Work sessions will be scheduled.

Landfill information technology services

Also tabled was a decision regarding contracting for information technology services for the county landfill.

“We’ve got issues with 28E agreements in this county,” Groenendyk said, and expressed the desire to have more time to look things over.

Managing Editor Angie Holland can be reached at aholland@oskyherald.com and followed on Twitter @OskyAngie.

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