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Fire marshal's ruling unfair, commissioners say

Staff writer

Marion County commissioners questioned the fairness of the State Fire Marshal’s ruling that the county jail may only hold four inmates or that 24-hour fire watch must be provided.

Commission Chairman Randy Dallke said he realized the fire marshal has different priorities than the county.

“But I feel like Marion County is being mistreated,” he said.

Commissioner Dan Holub questioned why the issue of overcrowding hadn’t been addressed by the fire marshal previously.

“How can we go through so many fire marshal visits and not see this?” Holub said.

Communications Director Michele Abbott said inspectors have found different issues at the jail three previous times, and the county has always resolved those issues. But space per inmate had never been discussed, she said.

“What has changed between 2007 and now?” she asked.

The fire marshal seems to have no regard for the standards of the American Correctional Association, Sheriff Rob Craft said.

“The ACA is the standard by which jails are built and operated,” he said.

Dallke said he thought smoke detectors, which the jail already has, would be more effective than employees at noticing fires, in any case. He said he might be willing to take the fire marshal to court over the ruling, because there doesn’t appear to be anywhere else to appeal it.

Craft and Abbott met with commissioners in closed session for 20 minutes to discuss personnel. No action was taken on return to open session.

In other business:

  • Marion County Public Safety and Law Enforcement Center Committee will meet at 7 p.m. Aug. 25 at the Hillsboro City Building, 118 E. Grand Ave.
  • County Attorney Susan Robson met with commissioners in closed session for 20 minutes to discuss matters protected by attorney-client privilege. During the closed session they had a phone conference with David Cooper, the attorney defending the county against a lawsuit by former employee Roberta Strait. No action was taken on return to open session.
  • A property owner refused to accept a certified letter about illegal dumping on their property, Planning and Zoning and Environmental Health Director Tonya Richards said. Commissioners instructed her to give the letter to the sheriff’s department to deliver.
  • New 911 operator Lisa Engler will be paid $11 an hour.
  • For completing 911 operator training, Amy Pharis will receive a raise from $11 to $12.50 an hour.
  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency will have a meeting at 10 a.m. Aug. 25 at the courthouse regarding disaster funds related to flooding. Affected municipalities, townships, and school districts are invited to the meeting.
  • Transfer Station Director Rollin Schmidt will travel to Morris County to see how a “bagel-cut” tire cutter operates before recommending the kind of cutter the county should use. Butler County provided a written guarantee that Butler County Landfill would accept bagel-cut tires.
  • Because of calculations following the Aug. 9 meeting, the budget was published with a 65.343 mill levy, rather than 65.215 that was previously stated.

The next commission meeting will be Monday.

Last modified Aug. 19, 2010

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