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Some members of the Chattanooga City Council want to reassess the city's agreement with the Hamilton County 911 Emergency Communications District amid human resource concerns.

At the council's strategic planning meeting Tuesday afternoon, 911 Executive Director John Stuermer fielded questions from the council left over from budget season.

The primary concerns revolved around an unspecified incident in which some council members believe an employee, paid for by the city, was mistreated by the 911 district's human resources staff.

"To me, that's not fair to the people we still have on payroll, and are being treated the way they're being treated," District 1 Councilman Chip Henderson said. "We have an obligation to these people. In my opinion, they should have a person who is officially in HR."

some text In this 2014 staff file photo, Hamilton County 911 Executive Director John Stuermer announces a new Geographical Information Systems crew with GeoComm that will map the county with exact addresses for first responders. The daily work will take place through October.

Stuermer maintained that the district's HR system was sufficient.

"We have a position under Hamilton County, which is our HR," Stuermer said of a "liaison" between district employees and the county's HR department.

Though the 911 district does not have an official HR person, Stuermer told the council that the liaison is able to fulfill the relevant functions of an HR representative.

District 5 Councilman Russell Gilbert, who was most vocal about the council's concerns, said some employees have been mistreated by the 911 district's staff.

"I have to respectfully disagree that the person was handled inappropriately," Stuermer said, referencing the incident, details of which were not provided. "I believe it was handled appropriately. It's a personal opinion, and I'll have to disagree with that."

Gilbert and others began discussing their rights to leave or negotiate the terms of the interlocal agreement among the city, county, 911 district and other local bodies, which ends in July 2020.

During the discussion, District 3 Commissioner Ken Smith said that the council should consider non-legislative actions first, suggesting an agreement between the district and city that would allow the seven 911 employees funded by the city to access the city's HR department when needed.

"I tend to think that could be something that could be just agreed upon by the city and 911," Smith said. "I don't think that would be an arguable point for 911."

"If they have no interest in working with us on that, well, we hold the purse strings."

No action was taken by the council during the informational session, but the council was advised by staff that it could make certain changes to the existing agreement before the renewal next summer, though most adjustments would need to be made in conjunction with the other bodies in the agreement.

Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at 423-757-6416 or at staylor@timesfreepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @_sarahgtaylor.

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