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When the message delivery is a little too Frank

Emergency manager “too forceful” with cities’ art fair plans

Staff writer

Firefighters put out fires, but it took a commissioner to douse sparks of contention ignited this past week between the county’s emergency management director and city responders and officials.

At a meeting last week, county emergency management director Randy Frank outlined a county-led emergency plan for Marion and Hillsboro arts festivals next month, but some city officials took exception to his style and questioned his authority.

“Some people did take away that he was maybe being too forceful or too restrictive, and so therefore, yeah, there was a little bit of tension,” said county commissioner Dianne Novak.

She said Frank’s concern was emergency preparedness for the arts festivals, which can draw more than 40,000 patrons to the county, and a desire to create a coordinated response to an emergency among firefighters, emergency medical personnel, and law enforcement.

Marion Mayor Todd Heitschmidt, who did not attend Frank’s meeting, said some officials had concerns with Frank’s language.

“My impression is that it was maybe closer to a mandate than it was suggestions,” Heitschmidt said. “And while he is the county emergency management director, he doesn’t have any authority in the city limits.”

He also said event organizers were not included in the meeting.

Frank did not answer when called Tuesday afternoon.

When commissioners came out of a 10-minute executive session for personnel Monday, Frank was called but unavailable.

“We just called him to see where he was at and see if he’d come in and visit with us,” Dallke said. “But we had already adjourned, so Dianne went to talk with him.”

When asked if there was a connection between the executive session and concerns with Frank’s meeting, Novak said, “Uh huh, I see, OK, well I’m going to pass on that one right there.”

Novak said she questioned Frank “very thoroughly,” and that “he perhaps used some strong words to get the point across.”

“Some of the people misunderstood that to be perhaps he’s dictating to them,” she said.

Both Novak and Heitschmidt said concerns already have been addressed.

Novak said Frank did not intend to come across as dictating to the cities.

“Of course he reassured me that, ‘I’m not setting up this, this is not my event. I don’t set the rules, the cities set the rules for their events,’” she said.

“After talking to (people who were concerned), I think it’s pretty much resolved,” Novak said. “It’s just a matter of getting in there and saying I didn’t mean to come across this way.”

Heitschmidt, who called the issue “miscommunication, misinterpretation, or misspokeness,” said the city will consider Frank’s recommendations, but he did not commit to following them.

“I think we’re all back on the same page,” he said. “These events are under the jurisdiction of the cities — not the county or the emergency management director. We do appreciate his interest in the safety part of it. We will definitely take his recommendation seriously and see what we can and can’t do.”

Hillsboro fire chief Ben Steketee said Frank’s efforts should be viewed as help rather than the county overstepping its authority.

He said Frank is assembling an incident command system for the Arts and Crafts Fair and Art in the Park to mitigate countywide safety risks.

“In the past, each city was kind of independent, and this was more the county emergency manager getting involved,” Steketee said. “That’s what I applaud, I think that’s fantastic. … It’s just a better way of doing it.”

Novak said city and county officials should work together to ensure successful, safe events.

“I would never dictate to any city how they need to do their event, and I would not want or allow any one of our employees to do the same thing either,” Novak said. “We don’t dictate to people — we work with them.”

Last modified Aug. 9, 2017

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