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June 26, 2019

5/23/2019 3:48:00 PM
North Branch calls work session on radio agreement

A couple of public safety issues were key action items on the North Branch Council agenda last week.

Council gave a thumbs-up to the fire department to order a new truck, at an estimated cost of $506,000.

North Branch Fire Chief Kevin Grote told council the department met with three vendors and discussed options what they could provide on chassis, engine, customization, etc. The Osceola-based firm Custom Fire is the preferred manufacturer, Grote explained.

City Administrator Renae Fry said the department is able to negotiate this project and is not required to get bids because it has a “cooperative purchasing agreement” in effect.

Custom Fire put the city in touch with KS State Bank for financing.   Fry said she checked with North Branch area banks and none could come close to the favorable financing terms the Kansas bank offered.  

The interest rate is 4.16 percent.  

The city is only able to cover a maximum expenditure of $420,000, at annual payments of approximately $63,000, however; so the firefighters’ relief association  will cover $8,600 in annual payments to make-up the difference.

Grote,  in responding to Mayor Jim Swenson’s questions, said the newest firefighting vehicle the department uses is a 2001, then there’s a 1990 and 1989. A truck is a 2006.  Swenson said the community and firefighters deserve to know the response team has safe, good equipment to rely on.

In another matter,  the emergency radio interim contract with Chisago County was rejected again.

The council wanted to meet informally and go over the items that are sticking points, and the workshop was tentatively set for this week (past press deadline.)
North Branch has three county commissioners representing it, Mike Robinson, Chris DuBose and Rick Greene. They were going to be asked to participate.

North Branch’s main issue with the hefty payments being demanded in the contract,  is that the county wants to control the communications system, but it wants others to pay for it, said Fry.  It’s a matter of fairness, she continued.  City staff have made overtures to the county to revise the agreement overseeing the ARMER network and the use of individual radios and the county doesn’t talk in good faith.  The system is a significant regional network that  requires regional support and a regionally-arrived at resolution to problems and concerns, she remarked.

Mayor Swenson also noted radio costs and said the city will need to hike the levy by two percent just to cover 50 or so radios, if the county retains its unilateral ability to declare radios non-compliant with the system.

There is an agreement allowing state grants to cover much of the police department’s NARCAN costs,  which was approved.  The opiod overdose antidote product has been used multiple times,  and the cost to North Branch has been about $700, according to the Police Chief Dan Meyer. Its use was adopted last summer by all the Chisago County police and sheriff’s departments. (Story in Press Aug 16, 2018.)

Lakes Region EMS purchases the NARCAN and the North Branch Police Dept. buys its doses from LREMS.

~Officer Kyle Lund, North Branch Police Department’s new hire was sworn in for duty at the council session.

~ The city reminds residents of two major events in town this summer, there is a RAGNAR Run event August 16 and the MS 150 bike ride comes through town, on old Hwy 61 (Forest Blvd.)  June 9.

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