Emergency manager hire on hold

FAIRMONT – Martin County commissioners have put on hold the hiring of a full-time emergency manager.

Commissioners approved searching for an emergency manager in October. The county received 18 applications, with the top half getting interviews. Two finalists were then interviewed by Sheriff Jeff Markquart.

On Tuesday, the sheriff’s department recommended Luann Akres for the position. Akres, a long-time sheriff’s department employee, has served in the emergency management position on a part-time basis for the past several years.

However, commissioners were dismayed that their input had not been sought in the final selection.

“I’m not comfortable with this,” said Commissioner Elliot Belgard. “We said when we agreed to create this position that it had to be the right person.”

“It would’ve been nice to be able to discuss this with [the sheriff], and [Akres],” added Commissioner Dan Schmidtke.

Commissioners voted to table the hiring of Akres until they have a chance to discuss the matter with the sheriff’s department. Commissioners indicated they will act on the recommendation at their next meeting.

On a related topic, commissioners discussed making National Incident Management System trainings a requirement for county employees.

“I went and took two of the courses,” Schmidtke said while holding a FEMA certificate in each hand. “The first one I did OK, but the second one was tough. But they did take more than an hour.”

The purpose of adopting the trainings is to address Homeland Security guidelines and procedures that would serve as the emergency management implementation plan.

Commissioner Steve Pierce reiterated what he said about the idea when it was brought up at a meeting in December:?”I don’t understand this Chicken Little mentality. We’re not living under the threat of ‘We’re all going to die tomorrow.’ We already have that big manual that’s sitting in someone’s office. Everybody keeps sitting around and thinking up the worst-case scenarios.”

“We haven’t had many disasters, thank God,” Schmidtke replied. “But if God forbid we do, this will make it easier for any of us that have done this. I know I would be more helpful today than I would have been two weeks ago.”

“We may not have the big disasters, but we will certainly have little ones,” said Belgard, recalling flooding in Truman in 2010. “By having things like this in place, it eased the situation … How likely are we to have a big event? We don’t know, but if we do we better be ready.”

Belgard made a motion to require department heads to take the online certification, while merely recommending training to other employees. The motion passed 3-2, with Pierce and Commissioner Steve Donnelly dissenting.