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April 19, 2019

3/28/2019 12:59:00 PM
Emergency radio contract makes for packed-house

There were a couple dozen citizens in the County Board audience March 20, hoping for a discussion with the  county commissioners about the status of access to the county’s emergency radio  system. Cities and townships recently received a notice of non-compliance with terms of the radio use agreement.  Because there had been a “default” the county gave an April 1 date for when it would cancel the ability to use the ARMER network for emergency radios communications.

At the start of the Board meeting, Commissioner Chris DuBose motioned to amend the March 20 agenda to add the radio topic and allow for discussion according to Open Meeting Law stipulations.  Mike Robinson voted yes, but it failed 3-2.

Still, emergency responders’ representatives opted to speak during public comment in the middle of the meeting.

Stacy Mayor Mark Utech represented the group of city officials;  with North Branch, Lindstrom, Chisago City, and Taylors Falls staff and/or elected officials seated in the audience.
Brian Seekon, Lent Township Board also spoke.  

And, Jim Marxer, Center City Fire Chief, also stated the group’s  desire to have a frank discussion with the county commissioners on contested portions of a proposed interim radio users agreement most have declined to approve.  

County Administrator Bruce Messelt said Minnesota emergency communications regulations want radio matrix users to have agreements in place. The five year contract Chisago County started on the ARMER system with,  in 2012-13, has expired.  

Technically, emergency communications users in Chisago County are no longer sanctioned without an agreement.  Messelt said everybody is “in a period of non-compliance” but as long as there’s a good faith effort to create an agreement parties can agree to-- there will be no consequences.

The Board had previously approved Messelt notifying police agencies and fire departments that their privilege to subscribe to the allied radio matrix would be withdrawn as of April 1.  

County Board Chair Rick Greene assured the room-full of people this would not happen.  “No radios will be shut-off,” he declared.

Mayor Utech said, “We don’t want to waste time on how we got here...fact is we are here.”  He said all the parties hope to move forward and simply want a date and time to  review the ARMER complexities and to make sure the same information goes out to all involved.

It was decided to have everybody meet in North Branch at the Senior Center, Wednesday night, March 27 in conjunction with the County Association of Township Officers’ (CATO) monthly gathering.  

Chair Greene said the goal is for finalizing a contract in April.

Some issues in the past plaguing this network, include,  departments and agents in the field having no say on equipment.  

Costs have been an issue, with sharing of expenses  believed to be unfairly apportioned to non-county entities.

Membership and level of input by the ARMER advisory group needs to be revised.

In other matters:
~Monica Long was appointed acting HHS Director.  She has been with the county health and human services department, managing the family and support services,  for about one year. She comes most recently from working in corrections.  She said this is a “return to my roots” in social services.  The county is advertising for a permanent director to replace Nancy Dahlin. (Retirement story Press March 14 2019)

~ A re-organization in Environmental Services proposed by Dept. Head Kurt Schneider was adopted 4-1. Commissioner Robinson felt Schneider should maintain parks department functions in North Branch, but Schneider wants to consolidate things at the Government Center where there’s office support staff available.  Robinson wanted to table, but got no second and the vote moved forward.
The re-organization is “opportune” Schneider explained, as 40-year employees Laird Mork and Tara Guy are retiring.

Commissioner George McMahon said if this updated structure is how the director feels his department will run most effectively, the Board should support that.

~ A request to plat four lots on Rush Lake, at the southwest corner of  Belle Isle and County Road 1, for Duane McCall was okayed.  

~ Roger Grell’s application to be clearly authorized to provide marina services at Rush Haven Resort (docks and (30) slips rental) was okayed.

~ Engineer Joe Triplett briefly spoke about the five-year Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) and said 10 more miles are to be paved next season. This leaves 16 gravel miles in the county road system.  Also, working with St. Croix valley Railroad there will be four crossings with the rail line upgraded, at CSAH 10, at 480th on Harris-Rushseba line, at CSAH #3 in Rushseba and at 540th.



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