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Stevens Co. Commissioners signal intent to join regional emergency call logging system

MORRIS, Minn. - At their meeting Tuesday, the Stevens County Board of Commissioners signaled their intent to join with the counties that are part of the Central Minnesota Emergency Services Board to develop a regional emergency call logging system that could save the county around $124,000 when compared to purchasing a system alone.

Minnesota state statute requires that certain types of radio traffic and all 911 calls and administrative phone lines be recorded, said Sheriff Randy Willis. When the county moved to a new radio system, recording those calls has become "problematic" and "very expensive," Willis explained.

"To try to alleviate some of these costs, the Central Minnesota Emergency Services Board [formerly the Central Minnesota Regional Radio Board] is looking at a regional logging solution," said Willis. "That would mean that all the counties in the central Minnesota region that want to participate in this logging project could do so."

Willis estimated that it would cost Stevens County about $200,000 to invest in its own logging system. In contrast, joining the group effort would require about $76,000 - $31,000 for local equipment and an estimate of $45,000 for participating in the regional logger in St. Cloud. The cost for maintenance for the regional equipment would be about $4,000 per year.

Willis said that the county still has grant money that could be used to pay for the project.

"I think it's sort of a no brainer that the county would at least give the intent to participate in this project," said Willis. Currently, 14 of the 18 counties in the CMNESB are planning to participate in the regional logging program.

IT Director Scott Busche said another advantage of the regional system - even for counties who already have their own equipment - is that it will provide backup recording for all counties involved. Under the regional system, local equipment will record calls, and the calls will be backed up by the regional recording system.

"A collaboration like this is not just to save the money, but to provide some kind of fault tolerance and backup and resiliency to the system that we don't have right now," said Busche.

The resolution passed by the board doesn't obligate the county to participate in this program, merely signals the county's intent to participate if the cost and technology falls into place, Willis said.

All four commissioners present at the meeting - chairman Larry Sayre and commissioners Jeanne Ennen, Paul Watzke and Ron Staples - voted in favor of the measure. Commissioner Phil Gausman was absent from Tuesday's meeting.

Other business

• The board authorized County Engineer Brian Giese to advertise for two spring construction projects - the main road through the City of Alberta and a bridge on CSAH 13.

Giese estimated that the Alberta project, which he called "pretty extensive," would come to about $500,000. However, Giese said he anticipates receiving state bonding money to help finance both projects.

The advertisements for bids will be posted on March 3, and bids will close at 10:15 a.m. on March 27, 2012. The board could award the projects as early as their first meeting in April.

• The board approved a salary augmentation of $4,588 per year for Ann Vipond, administrative assistant with the Stevens County Sheriff's Department, for her work as assistant emergency management director. Sheriff Willis serves as the director of emergency management.

• The board approved an election services contract with Synergy Graphics that will be good for the next two elections. The board also authorized County Auditor/Treasurer Neil Weise to apply for a Help American Vote Act (HAVA) grant through the Minnesota Secretary of State's office to help offset election costs.

• Sayre appointed Watzke to serve on a joint committee with Pope County to oversee the Veterans Justice Corps position that the two counties will be jointly applying for. Pope County will serve as the applicant and fiscal agent for the grant application.

• The board has started to record their meetings. The meetings will be played on the local access channel on the Thursdays following the meeting at noon and 7 p.m.

The meetings will also be available to view online at