Supervisors approve increase in cities’ 911-service fee

Posted February 6, 2020 at 6:00 am

By Julie Ann Madden

A fundraiser is being held to help a Westfield couple who lost everything Jan. 16 in a house fire.

From 5:00 – 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 11, the Akron Pizza Ranch is hosting a Community Impact Night to benefit Terry and Martha Kratz.

The fundraiser, which is sponsored by Local 42 International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, includes a silent auction, raffle and full Pizza Ranch buffet. Ten percent of Pizza Ranch sales during the fundraiser and 100 percent of any donations received will go to the couple.

All that’s left of their two-story home is two concrete basement walls.

At about 4 a.m. that Sunday morning, Terry and Martha Kratz were awakened by their house cats acting wild. They discovered their house on fire, and in just over a minute, the house was fully engulfed in flames. They made it out but their cats didn’t.

The fire was determined to have started in their house’s chimney. In addition to losing everything they had in the home, they lost an RV motor home, car trailer and Terry’s gun collection.

The fire’s heat was so intense things 150 feet from the house melted, said Martha, who didn’t have time to grab shoes as they left their home that night. “People have been so generous.”

Terry continues to have medical treatments on burns he sustained in the fire.

Terry and Martha Kratz have lived in rural Westfield since 1976.

Their son, Craig, graduated with Akron-Westfield’s Class of 1987 and now lives in Sioux City with his wife, Shelly.

Terry and Martha also have two granddaughters attending Augustana University, one a freshman and the other a senior.

The couple enjoys flea marketing and gardening.

Terry, who worked as a diesel mechanic at Midwest Continental in Sioux City, is retired.

However, they call themselves “semi-retired” as Terry still helps when needed and together the couple raises livestock and operates Martha’s Junk & Treasures at area flea markets.

The “born and raised” Iowans just do their own thing, they told The Akron Hometowner. “We’re quiet people (who love living in the Loess Hills countryside).”

They are working through the process to rebuild their home and refurnish it — they had no insurance.

They are temporarily staying with their son and their daughter-in-law. But most of the time, they can be found trying to pick up the pieces of their life.

They can’t say enough about the great response of the Akron Fire Department and the surrounding community. The help they are receiving is greatly appreciated.

Area people are encouraged to help this “retired” couple as they start their life over. All are invited to participate in the fundraiser.

By Julie Ann Madden

How much are Plymouth County residents willing to pay to have their 911-calls answered?

Currently, cities pay $3.75 per capita (per person) annually.

Plymouth County Sheriff Mike Van Otterloo requested Plymouth County Supervisors consider “doubling it” for the county’s FY 2021 Budget.

That per capita fee generates just $62,350 of the Communications Center’s nearly half-million-dollar budget, said Van Otterloo. “It’s not about whether it’s fair. The county is paying $500,000 to run the Communications Center, and we are generating $60,000 from outside entities who are generating at least 60 percent of the work in the Communications Center.”

Let the counties’ 11 cities share half — $250,000 — of the cost, said Van Otterloo, noting every 25 cents of increase generates $4,155 for the county. “Go up to $15 per capita. Again, that’s not going to happen.”

“It’s tough to have an increase like this (doubling to $7 per capita),” said Supervisor Gary Horton, suggesting an increase in steps.

“This is actually something that applies to everybody,” said Supervisor Craig Anderson, suggesting to increase the per capita fee over three years: FY 2021: a $1.25 per capita increase ($5 per capita total); then increase it $1 per capita per year for FY 2022 and FY 2023.

“It’s not any different than what we did with the drainage districts (when) we fell behind there — we had to do it,” said Loutsch. “We’re doing the same with the landfill. We’ve just got to do it.”

“We’ve been nice too damn long,” he said, suggesting to start with $2.25 per capita.

Fellow supervisors were concerned with Le Mars city officials handling going from nearly $37,000 to close to $60,000 in FY 2021.

Anderson motioned to do the three-year step increase he’d suggested.

Supervisor Mark Loutsch suggested doing it for four years — increase it another $1 per capita, thereby making it $8 per capita fee in FY 2024.

Supervisor John Meis suggested doing it only three years, and Supervisor Chairman Don Kass reminded them they decided the budget on a year-to-year basis. Kass also said he’d be okay starting with a $2 per capita increase.

Anderson motioned to start with a $1.25 per capita increase (to $5 per capita in FY 2021) with the tentative intent to increase it another $1 per capita in FY 2022, FY 2023 and FY 2024. Supervisor Gary Horton seconded it, and the vote was unanimous, 5-0.

“At least we have a plan,” said Anderson. “If future boards decide not to follow the plan, that’s okay.”

“Because of (property tax assessments), the Communications Center is basically funded by a relatively small group of people who live outside the incorporated areas,” said Kass. “Doing this per capita is the fairest way to tax for this service in the first place.”

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