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Keokuk Offers "Olive Branch" on Emergency Dispatch Deal

Jason Parrott
The Keokuk City Council agreed to extend the current LeeComm agreement by two months to allow more time to negotiate on the future of the dispatch center.

Keokuk remains adamant it will not sign the proposed agreement to extend the countywide emergency dispatch center (LeeComm). But, it is confident that action taken Thursday night will show the other members of the dispatch center that Keokuk wants to remain a member.

The agreement that created LeeComm seven years ago expires June 30, 2016. The Keokuk City Council voted Thursday night to extend that agreement by two months, which City Administrator Aaron Burnett said would allow for more time to negotiate a deal that everyone can support.

“All of it is to try and achieve a better service for the citizens in this region who are served by LeeComm,” said Burnett after Thursday night’s meeting. “[Let’s] resolve the issues internally and provide a path forward so that this does not break apart.”

Keokuk is the first member of LeeComm to consider extending the current agreement to allow more time for negotiations.

City leaders continue to say that they support the idea of a centralized dispatch center, but what they oppose is some of the language included in the agreement that would continue the service into the future. The city’s opposition includes:

  • The length of the deal
  • The lack of a formal policy regarding exiting the agreement
  • The lack of a formal policy on how complaints will be handled
  • The lack of a formal policy to provide performance data to the members

On the surface, Keokuk appears to be alone in its concerns, as the other nine members of LeeComm have all signed off on the version of the agreement that Keokuk opposes, ahead of the June 30, 2016 deadline. But, Burnett said that might not be the case.
Keokuk sent Freedom of Information requests to the other LeeComm members seeking documents and emails related to LeeComm.

Burnett said the information provided to Keokuk shows that the other members are experiencing some of the same problems as Keokuk, including first responders being sent to the wrong locations or calls going unanswered. He hoped that, along with a vote of no confidence by the LeeComm dispatchers in the center’s administrators, would be enough to get everyone back to the table.

But Burnett said he’s worried Keokuk’s stance has created some ill will.

“I just feel like everybody is just standing around and the clock is running and that’s why I really wanted to get this extension and really find an olive branch and get people together and find a solution instead of everybody focusing on hard feelings,” said Burnett.

Keokuk did discuss a possible solution Thursday night.

Burnett gave aldermen a copy of an alternate agreement, drafted by Lee County Attorney Mike Short, to extend LeeComm. Burnett said this version, which is available here, addresses some of Keokuk’s concerns, but not all of them.

Keokuk aldermen considered approving the alternate agreement Thursday night, but instead decided to wait until all members had a chance to read it. They did say they were willing to hold a special meeting in the coming days to approve it.

Burnett said he would like that to occur before the next meeting of LeeComm’s oversight board, which is scheduled to meet on May 19. He said that would allow him to walk into the meeting with an option that Keokuk can support, showing that the city does not want to walk away from the service.

Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.