GRAETTINGER - Emmet and Palo Alto county supervisors met in their yearly joint session Tuesday at River Valley Telephone Cooperative.
The joint meeting yearly has become something of a tradition in which the boards share notes on how each county handles various matters and also gives opportunity for discussion of sharing possibilities.
Discussing a possible joint communications center, Emmet County supervisor Jon Martyr said Emmet County had just transitioned into new equipment. "There's definitely the capability out there to do sharing," Martyr said, adding that the question would be where a joint communications center would be located and whether it could tie in with current facilities.
When Palo Alto board chair Ed Noonan asked whether the two counties' radio systems were compatible, Martyr said they were. He suggested that both county sheriffs and E-9ll staff be involved in any discussions.
Emmet County board chair Alan Madden said there is duplication now between the two counties in communications.
"Usually the savings is in the personnel," Madden said. He added that new technology Emmet County deputies have available tells where other officers' cars are at any given time.
Regarding sharing dispatching services within Palo Alto County, supervisor Ron Graettinger said the City of Emmetsburg pays 18.5 percent - $40,000 - of the county's dispatching costs.
As for law enforcement, Palo Alto county auditor Carmen Moser said Graettinger and Ruthven contracted with the county while West Bend has its own officer.
When Noonan asked whether Emmet County had discussed sharing law enforcement with Estherville, and whether there was opposition to that, Emmet County supervisor Tim Schumacher said there was some. And when Noonan asked if anyone thought shared law enforcement had a chance in Emmet County, Martyr said the city had broached the subject three and a half hears ago but nothing had materialized. The subject has again come up within the last six months due to the pending retirement of Estherville police chief Eric Milburn, Martyr said.
If countywide law enforcement did happen, Madden said state law prevented spending less on law enforcement that is spent currently.
"That takes the money rewards out of it," said Madden. To illustrate, Madden said Luverne, Minn. has successfully combined law enforcement with Rock County but that Washington County, Iowa's combined law enforcement has put it into the top five Iowa counties for cost.
Schumacher said efficiency of coordination was a plus to look at. "I think that's worth something," he said.
Martyr stressed though that cost-savings wouldn't be a motivator toward combined law. "You can't go with it thinking you're going to cut your budget in half," he said.
And, like Emmet County, Palo Alto funds some of its deputies through rural services money. Graettinger said two were paid from that part of Palo Alto County's budget.
Both boards also discussed mental-health regionalization and secondary roads.
The next meeting was set for Jan. 13, 2015.