July 22, 2010 at 8:17 a.m.

County Board orders design of 9-1-1 comm center on split vote

County Board orders design of 9-1-1 comm center on split vote
County Board orders design of 9-1-1 comm center on split vote

A special meeting called by the County Board was meant as a final recap of pending two-way radio needs and as a chance for the public to present options or alternatives on the proposed network improvements.

Center City resident Jon Alvin, was the only presenter at the July 14 session. Alvin felt the estimate of about $1.9 million for a stand alone communications/9-1-1 dispatch center was "way-off," but gave no details about square footage costs that he might provide as a builder.

The sheriff explained that the communications center is a specialized project.

Sheriff Todd Rivard was joined by Jay Hruby, Scott Fettig and Pete Filippi, who work for architects, construction management and special services.

Rivard noted he had invited a Wyoming city official to the meeting, who has said in a Forest Lake newspaper this radio upgrade could be accomplished much more cheaply. Mayor Sheldon Anderson, however, did not attend this session.

Architect Fettig explained that this communications center requires redundant power capability (generators etc.), secure building access, fire suppression and acoustics beyond the design of a usual structure.

Consultants said the 9-1-1 comm center needs to be positioned exactly so that in the future it can be incorporated into a new law enforcement center; if sheriff's offices and a jail are ever built on the site prepared east of downtown Center City.

The county also has adopted a prevailing wage requirement for all its contractors, which the budget allows for.

Project costs also include installing the trunk line from the county seat out to the new site.

It was explained that if the proposed law enforcement center and jail had moved forward, costs for the stand alone dispatch and 9-1-1 center would have been spread over the larger project, reducing the cost per square foot being applied to just the comm center.

The public input part of the meeting was almost derailed, when a remark by Commissioner Mike Robinson halted things.

Robinson referred to an ambulance being necessary should he accept Commissioner Ben Montzka's offer to have lunch, to discuss Robinson's project concerns informally.

Montzka told the Board Chair he is "tired of" veiled threats of violence Commissioner Robinson interjects into boardroom debate. Montzka said Robinson's constituents, "deserve better."

Robinson responded with accusations about Montzka being involved in distributing anti-Robinson campaign materials.

Commissioner George McMahon motioned to adjourn; declaring he was, "... trying to bring some order back into the proceeding," and put the focus back onto the subject at hand. The motion to adjourn was defeated 3-2, with Montzka and Commissioner Lora Walker supporting. The meeting got back on track and continued to slightly past 9 p.m.

Remote site is preferred

The county commissioners ultimately voted 3-2 to move forward directing consultants to proceed with design and specs for a communications center in Center City, at the new law enforcement center site just east of downtown. Robinson and Walker were the no votes.

Robinson said he's unhappy there's no new radio tower in the northwest corner of the county, as part of the overall plan. The county needs new signal transmission and relay capacity in Almelund, Stacy and at the Center City comm center. A fourth tower is planned in the fifth district in "phase two." Commissioner Robinson has fought for the tower to be constructed immediately.

Radio coverage consultant Jeff Nelson explained last week that the Minnesota Department of Transportation is seeking federal aviation administration permits to construct a 300 foot tower in Isanti County, near the town of Day.

Nelson said when this tower fires up deadspots identified in radio coverage analysis for the upper northwest corner of Chisago County will be reduced.

Nelson also reminded the commissioners that the poor coverage designations (shown as yellow and royal blue on coverage map) are inside "light" built buildings (not brick or segmented in many areas). A deputy outdoors or in a vehicle using a radio should not encounter communications problems under the phase one buildout, Nelson explained. It was also pointed out that under the accepted plan, there are also poor coverage spots outside of Robinson's district.

Commissioner Walker voted no because she asked for a friendly amendment to cap design expenses and there was no cap placed. She said she wouldn't vote yes without the cap.

Commissioner McMahon, who made the motion to proceed and lay out financing for the Center City Hwy. 8 site, did not accept Walker's friendly amendment. McMahon said the project has a budget and staff has been instructed to come in at or below budget. Commissioner Chair Rick Greene also said the County Board sees this again on its way to getting built, and it will stay under-budget. "If we don't allow it, it won't go any farther," Greene said.

Sheriff candidates Mark Osland and Karl Schreck were in the audience and spoke briefly during public comment. They both said it is important to plan for future public safety needs, while containing the costs to the taxpayer, and agreed that reliable 9-1-1 service is a priority.

FYI....

~ To retro-fit the basement of the government center for a 9-1-1 dispatch and communications facility would be $1.6 million not including where county records would be stored, when moved out of the lower level.

~ A municipal tower zoning ordinance was approved by Center City should there be a radio tower constructed on that site.

~ The comm center is estimated at 4,000 square feet. Final design authorized will fine tune project details.

~ Sheriff Rivard stressed that the center should be built where it can eventually attach onto a jail. Having dispatch and 9-1-1 personnel able to handle after hours walk-in traffic, and supervise access to the law enforcement center combines duties saving the costs of several extra employees.


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