August 12, 2010 at 8:50 a.m.
Commissioners Mike Robinson and Lora Walker continue to oppose the new 9-1-1 and communications-dispatch center. Plans are to build it on a county owned site, on the east edge of Center City.
The center will go in alongside a new tower, to enhance two-way radio coverage and migrate the county's system to an FCC mandated narrowband width. There were six planning phases laid out when the county first started meeting with radio users in October 2009. This action puts the county into phase five.
The contracts approved will bring forward project specifications and more detailed information in order to go out for bids.
When Commissioner Walker stated that she wanted more time to review this and didn't like being "rushed," Commissioner George McMahon took exception. He said reports have been presented from consultants on 9-1-1 and radio needs for over a year.
McMahon said, "In a perfect world" he'd be able to be spending the money on "...schools or museums or community centers" but this is a federal mandate. The radio buildout is absolutely necessary due to the federal government having sold airwaves emergency systems currently rely on.
The January 2013 mandate to narrowband width, he continued, has been discussed "ad nauseum."
The Board has already approved moving law enforcement records to the ARMER system used by many central Minnesota counties, and approved migrating to 800 MHz.
The county needs to stay on track to meet deadlines so it can communicate via two-way radio with county police and fire departments, and with other agencies in the state.
"Let's not take one step forward and two steps back," he pleaded.
Commissioner Walker said, "We are not building buildings for other (county) departments...we have other needs to be met...I can't remember when we've had a year of such tension."
Inconclusive contract talks with employees represented by the Teamsters have resulted in a notice of intent to strike.
Human Services, Highway, Government Professionals and Engineering Tech subgroups in a "secret ballot" voted to authorize the notice, according to a July 29 Local 320 memo to the County Board.
County Administrator John Moosey said the day following the Board meeting that the county and negotiators for the union have a mediation conference, scheduled in St. Paul August 12 (today), and he is "optimistic" the talks will be successful.
Meanwhile, back on the 9-1-1 comm center design; Commissioner Mike Robinson continued to press for a tower in the fifth district. Expert consultants have assured commissioners this first part of the buildout, with three boosted tower capabilities, is sufficient for public safety. Robinson says he wants the fourth tower identified in studies as a desired part of the system, to be built now.
Robinson pressed a friendly amendment to approve a Goose Lake-Rush Lake area tower; but it was ruled not germane, as the motion was on comm center design contracts.
Commissioner Ben Montzka, who did support the contracts with Chair Rick Greene and McMahon, said he wants the bottom line watched "aggressively." He said an estimated bond sale of about $2 million for this facility is "unnerving" to some constituents in this uncertain economy.
Montzka also mentioned that residents wonder if there's an alternative to this plan. He asked about the jail administration office (located in the government center parking lot former title abstract business) and if it would suffice.
County Administrator John Moosey said the abstract building is about one-third the size needed.
It isn't secure or fireproof as it was formerly a private dwelling. Moosey said a 9-1-1 center has to withstand natural disasters and be supported by stand alone special systems
The county still must build a tower east of town, so costs for that, and a structure for tower related equipment, would not be eliminated.
Moosey said any commissioner who gets questions about this should direct citizens to discuss it with Sheriff Todd Rivard.
Montzka said he'd like to hold another meeting to distribute information to the public.
McMahon felt each commissioner should schedule something in his or her district, making it easy for the public to learn more. No action was taken on this.
The County Board also adopted cost-sharing and operations agreements to be sent out to three area police departments partnering with the county on this project.
Costs associated with each city's two-way radio inventory are estimated within the agreements.
Monday night, North Branch City Council adopted the North Branch version of the agreement. Wyoming Council meets August 16 and Lakes Area Police Commission was scheduled to review the agreement at the regular commission meeting last night (Aug. 11.)
In other matters: the Lent Township Board and Chisago County Board hold a joint hearing September 21 to revert County Road 80 (302nd St.) to the township.
The hearing will be at the Lent Township Hall at 7 p.m. Afterwards the township supervisors will move into their regular agenda.
~ Hardrives Inc. got the bid for work on County Roads 33 and 81 and Hwy. 21. Award is for $1.1 million.
~ The work on #87 and #22 was awarded to Hardrives for $378,000.
~ The Board approved Trefoil Cultural and Environmental Heritage to do an assessment of where the Swedish Immigrant Trail route is planned, in conformance with rules for receiving federal funds, for constructing a portion of the trail west of Taylors Falls. The company tasks and its cultural review report will not exceed $3,700.