Emotions run high over Cass County courthouse space and reorganization


December 1st, 2012 by Ric Hanson

The possible relocation of the Cass County 9-1-1/Communications Center from the basement of the courthouse in Atlantic to the third floor does not sit well with some elected officials whose offices would be affected by the change. Constantly changing technology in methods of communicating with 9-1-1 is the main reason for the County Public Safety Commission (PSC) is  exploring the option. Supervisors Mark Wedemeyer and Gaylord Schelling serve on the County PSC. Schelling said during the Supervisor’s meeting Friday afternoon, that they want to explore the feasibility of moving the Comm Center to the Third-Floor, which would have involved a cost-study.

Cass County 9-1-1 Director Rob Koppert said the 9-1-1 Board has about $12,000 set aside in its budget to conduct any necessary study. He said also two architectural firms who have provided a tentative inspection of the 3rd floor facilites seem to think it would be more than capable of handling the infrastructure changes needed to facilitate the necessary an expansion of the Comm Center, which has been the topic of discussion for more than a year.

Koppert said during the PSC’s last meeting, the commission agreed to request the Supervisors formally approve moving the Comm Center upstairs, with the idea a study on the costs would be conducted AFTER the Supervisors approve. At that point in the conversation, Auditor Dale Sunderman, whose voting machines are stored in climate controlled conditions on the 3rd floor, told Board Chair Duane McFadden, approval could not be given until the courthouse department heads had a chance to discuss the matter. He said there are issues with the voting machines, as well as with other offices on the 3rd floor to contend with.

Sunderman said that a long-range plan should be made and approved by all elected officers in the courthouse, before any thought is given to conducting a feasibility study. Koppert then stressed the importance of not waiting too long to get the ball rolling on any possible move. He said they are coming up against some serious timelines for the installation of “Next Generation” 9-1-1 equipment. He said they can’t keep pushing-off decision on what to do with the Comm Center, because the new technology they’ll have to deal with requires more equipment and space to operate it, along with additional personnel.

The FCC, he says, has issued a recommendation that the County be “Next-Gen capable,” by no later than 2015. Cass County Attorney Dan Feistner, whose offices are on the 3rd floor, was upset he was never consulted about the possible move, and because he needs space for office expansion and renovations, as well. Feistner says the County Treasurer’s and Auditor’s Offices already have storage issues, in addition to his own office, and those spaces are continuously being “encroached upon.” Supervisor Mark Wedemeyer seemed surprised Feistner and others were angry over the concept of moving the Comm Center, since the issue has been in the news,  and discussed during various board and committee meetings,  for more than a year. Feistner and Cass County Recorder Joyce Jensen begged to differ.

Feistner said it was “unfair” to blame elected officials such as himself, Sunderman and Jensen for seemingly complaining “all of the sudden,” when they weren’t prithee to information from those meetings and discussions that had taken place. Jensen said it is “unfortunate” the County is being “re-active” to concerns, because that she says “Is the worst kind of government.” Wedemeyer said both he and Schelling had spoken with Jensen, but admitted neither had spoken with Feistner about the matter, because “It didn’t occur to us.”

In the end, the Supervisors said a meeting of all elected officials in the courthouse and department head will take place 3-p.m. December 5th, to “diplomatically” hash out the issues and solutions to the problem.