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Fillmore County joins Southeast Region Joint Power Agreement for communications

Fri, Feb 29th, 2008
Posted in Government

PRESTON - Goodhue County Deputy Sheriff Scott McNurlin and consultant Tom Hannon brought the Fillmore County Board up to speed on the formation of the Southeast Minnesota Regional Radio Board at the February 26 county board meeting. At this time eleven area counties and the city of Rochester are in the process of planning and establishing policy in order to develop interoperability plans to work with the statewide ARMER Radio Board.

McNurlin explained that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is going to mandate changes by 2013. Channels currently used will be going away. He maintained that the changes are necessary because of an overload of traffic on the current systems. In Minnesota each region is to work out a plan for their area. Daryl Jensen and Michael Ask represent the county on the Radio Advisory Committee (RAC) which is made up of the eleven area counties and representatives from Rochester, Winona, and Albert Lea. Hannon helped to form RAC and to develop the joint powers agreement. McNurlin said that the days of stand alone systems are over.

Commissioner Chuck Amunrud asked whether the regional systems will be compatible. McNurlin said that there would be 95% coverage from county to county. Sheriff Jensen insisted that if the county does not involve itself in RAC and the Regional Radio Board, "We are walking in the desert by ourselves." He added that tremendous progress has been made over the last two years. Jensen explained that the state is building the backbone for the system, which is the radio towers. He encouraged the county board to take advantage of the resources from the state and to get on board. McNurlin said that they will help with the planning, present the options, and that some funding should be available from the Homeland Security Department to pay for the first two years administrative expenses. After that each member will pay a portion of the administrative costs.

Studies will be completed to gather data on VHF and ARMER to help local government units decide which option is best for them financially. Jensen noted that the data gathering to be completed will save the county as much as $40,000 if the county did its own study.

The Regional Radio Board will budget to cover administrative, operational and capital costs. Local government units have control over expenses as they need to approve expenditures. County Attorney Kelly Wagner had no concerns over the agreement. The board unanimously approved the Joint Powers Agreement for the Regional Radio Board. The first joint power meeting will be in April. McNurlin and Hannon hope to have all the parties sign onto the joint power agreement by the end of March.

Emergency Operations Plan

Emergency Management Director Deborah Teske presented the Emergency Operations Plan to the board for their consideration. Amunrud asked her how often the plan needed to be reviewed. Teske said that she would look at it each year. However, the board would need to review and approve it every four years.

The board adopted the plan as recommended by the Emergency Management Committee. Teske will send CD copies to cities, townships, the Red Cross, soil and water district, and some county department heads. The plan is a guide to help officials 'protect life and property under a wide range of emergency conditions.' It will help with coordination of resources including equipment and personnel.

Teske asked for and received approval of a list of county officials, city representatives, fire department and EMS representatives, township officials, and representatives of the school district, the DNR, and the SWCD. Together they will make up the Hazard Mitigation Planning Team. The county has hired Bonestroo as a consultant to develop a plan. The planning team would advise the contractor and provide input, do hazard and risk assessments, and review mitigation concepts that go into the plan. Teske added that she hopes to have a first draft of the plan in May. She said that there will be published public meetings where any citizen can provide input.

Highway Committee

Several unexpected expenses had been discussed at the meeting. Amunrud said that a truck damaged in a roll over accident would need to be replaced and that they are waiting for the insurance adjustment. The county's boom truck may not pass certification because of the boom operation. Commissioner Duane Bakke noted that used boom trucks are being looked at to replace it. The board agreed by consensus to try to have the boom truck certified. Replacement of neither of these trucks was in the 2008 budget plan for the highway department. Amunrud said that the boom truck is used about forty times per year.

Amunrud discussed remodeling the highway administration building. Bakke suggested that the department needs to determine what needs to be done and how much it would cost to extend the life of the building for at least ten to 20 years. No one on the board seemed interested in replacing the building with a new structure.

The state legislature's override of Governor Pawlenty's veto was discussed. The Transportation Bill will raise the gas tax 5 cents. Chairman Randy Dahl warned that new funds are a ways out into the future. Representative Ken Tschumper expects around 13 million more dollars to come into the county over ten years. Bakke remarked that the county levy will not be effected, but that projects on CSAH roads can be accelerated.

The need to increase the amount of salt and sand on hand before next winter was discussed in order to get the most economical price. Any surplus would be carried over to the next winter. Amunrud noted that only County Road 5 will be reconstructed this year.

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