The Fremont City Council meeting on Tuesday included the makings of a collaborative effort between local and county law enforcement, and a complaint aimed at the Fremont Fire Department.
Following approval of an inter-local agreement that sets in motion planning for a new Joint Public Service Center that will house both the Fremont Police Department and Dodge County Sheriff’s Office, council members also heard a formal citizen complaint from local resident Larry Marvin regarding the Fremont Fire Department’s response after he was locked out of his residence and called for assistance.
The council unanimously approved a resolution to enter into an inter-local agreement with Dodge County which initiates the planning process to build a Joint Public Service Center at the Fremont Technology Park which is east of Yager Road and south of 32nd Street.
Mayor Scott Getzschman said that the city first began talks with the county about the possibility of building a joint law enforcement center back in 2010 when the two collaborated to begin the Joint Dispatch Center which opened in the Fremont Police Station in 2013.
“When we first began talking with the county in regards to the joint communications center one of the times was a resolution put together by myself and (Dodge County Board of Supervisors Chairman) Bob Missel) was also to begin to work on a long term agreement to one day build the joint law enforcement center,” he said.
Along with the resolution to enter into an inter-local agreement with Dodge County, the council also approved the sale of 12.2 acres of the Fremont Technology Park where the Joint Public Service Center is planned to be located.
“The reason we are selling them 12.2 (acres) is because the county would like to someday consider a jail—but they will have to decide that down the road,” City Administrator Brian Newton told council members at the meeting.
The ordinance to sell Dodge County half-interest in 25 acres—or 12.2 acres—for $201,300 was approved by a unanimous 8-0 council vote.
The council also heard a formal complaint from resident Larry Marvin regarding an incident on Oct. 7 when Marvin accidentally locked himself out of his apartment in the building he owns and called the Fremont Fire Department to have them come and open a Knox Box to let him back inside.
“I am a senior citizen of 80 years and on Sunday morning on October 7 I locked myself out of my apartment and was standing in my cold unheated hallway in my summer pajamas and bathrobe and shivering,” Marvin said. “While looking at my locked door I was penniless, homeless and afraid of hypothermia and death so I called you for help because you had talked me into buying the Knox Box as a security device—which only you have the key.”
According to Fremont Fire Chief Todd Burnt, a Knox Box is a security device that is required by city ordinance on all commercial and industrial structures protected by automatic alarm systems.
“A Knox Box is a very rugged, very thick metal box that businesses purchase and they put it by the front door and in the event of a fire or emergency we can have access to the keys to the structure,” he said. “The fire department has the master keys to these Knox Boxes—no one else has keys—so once it gets mounted we go onsite and make sure the keys work and then we’ll put the keys in the Knox Box and secure it.”
Burnt added that the fire department’s policy is to not open Knox Boxes for residents who have been locked out of their residences—and that it was changed after several people called the Fire Department seeking to get into their apartment.
“Since this has been enacted there have been several cases where people have been locked out before—one was at the Powerhouse Apartments where we had a tenant call and say that he was locked out but he had a stove on and a young child in the apartment. We did go and assist him and get him back into his apartment,” he said. “A short time later the same tenant actually locked himself out again and called the fire department—at that point we adopted a policy not granting access to people who locked themselves out of their apartments or occupancy.”
Burnt added that the shift officer who spoke with Marvin on Oct. 7 told him that was the fire department’s policy—and that Marvin never explicitly said he felt his life was in danger.
“The shift officer talking to him said I don’t know you and I don’t know if that is your apartment and went on to tell him that it is not our policy, granting access to people who are locked out,” he said. “At any time during the conversation Mr. Marvin did not state his life was in danger, he did state that he felt embarrassed being locked out.”
Marvin took issue with both the policy and the fact that he was never asked whether or not he felt his life was in danger at the time.
“Maybe it’s my personality because if I call you and say that I need your help—I need your help,” he said. “When I wanted help, the policy was no—they did not ask me if I was fearful of my life—you didn’t ask me the questions. So now you are trying to brush me off saying it’s my fault that I didn’t say, ‘I think I’m going to freeze to death.’”
Burnt did add that a meeting involving himself, City Administrator Brian Newton, Assistant City Administrator Shane Wimer and Marvin yielded a possible policy change which would require a police officer to respond to similar situations.
“By the time the meeting was over I thought there was sort of an agreement I thought he was satisfied with what we came up with,” he said. “In an event like this in the future, we would have a police officer go over and help assist with people who are locked out after all avenues of them gaining access had been pursued.”
Council member Susan Jacobus apologized to Marvin for the situation and said she hoped to change the policy as soon as possible to avoid similar situations from occurring again.
“I would like to think that we are all empathetic enough and compassionate enough to understand that had it been us in those shoes—and having locked myself out and having to go over to the neighbors and knock on the door when it’s freezing cold out—that’s a very fearful thing,” she said. “I also understand as we age—and I’m in my sixties—that hypothermia is not a joke so I can appreciate your concerns along that route. Hopefully, this is a procedural policy change and a learning lessons and it’s a time to say maybe we need to look at our policy and ask just a few more questions to make sure something like this doesn’t happen to anybody.”
“That’s all I want.”