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May 20, 2019

5/6/2019 12:03:00 PM
North Branch takes a pass on radio contract, for now

The North Branch City Council declined last week to adopt the interim 2019 contract for subscribing to the emergency radio system.  The allied radio matrix of emergency radios or ARMER system is regulated statewide and access and usage calls for a contract.  A five-year agreement for all the police, fire and municipal users in the county expired in 2018 and an interim one-year agreement is making the rounds for approval.

North Branch Mayor Jim Swenson said at the council meeting when the contract came up on the agenda, that the county would “...have the upper edge” over North Branch if this language were to be adopted, even for a year.

North Branch City Administrator Renae Fry commented that if accepted, the agreement might lull  county into doing nothing on any revisions or perfecting a permanent contract.  

She advised council that her concern is a 2020 contract with language that cities and emergency responders prefer, will be less of a priority if this interim agreement becomes effective.
Mayor Swenson, on not signing the interim agreement, quipped, “What are they (Chisago County) going to do-- turn off the radios?”  

He said the easy solution is for the county to be buying  radios.  Costs estimated for equipment will hit the North Branch tax levy and in defense of townships-- they are taking a financial hit too, when urban fire departments pass their costs onto townships.  Plus, townships don’t even get notified of contract issues, Swenson continued.  

He declared “The county has done a really bad job” with this agreement, and he did not want to vote on an interim contract.

Administrator Fry said by next city council meeting she may have more to report on negotiations and what mayors are saying respective to their cities’ positions. (Lindstrom and Chisago City have adopted the interim wording.)

In other business the council voted 4-1 to place Ian Lexvold on the planning commission.  Mayor Swenson was the no vote.

~ A 10-lot single family home plat was approved for Graphic Homes.  The lots are the first phase in the eventually 150-acre development  “Townsedge” on 375th,  in the southern end of the city.

~ The Design Team proposed “branding” of North Branch to lend it an identity and to help in marketing and community strengthening is being reviewed.  The pubic is encouraged to attend a workshop May 9 at 6:30 at city hall to look over branding ideas.  Following this session -- business owners are asked to stay for a few extra minutes to learn more about a commercial promotion being set-up during the MS 150 bike ride this June that goes through North Branch.

Fry said the chamber is hoping to see interest in promoting businesses through a series of route signs,  and perhaps a balloon archway on the biking route.


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