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County taps reserves to pay for dispatch consoles

The Wadena County Board agreed in a unanimous vote June 24 to lend about $271,000 from the general fund to the sheriff's office for new dispatch consoles, the last major upgrade to its communication system.

In 2008, when it began the transition to ARMER, the state's 800 megahertz public safety radio network, Wadena County was on the cutting edge of technology, Sheriff Mike Carr said. Six years later, he said, it's the only county in the area that has yet to fully adopt the system.

"It's a vital piece of equipment that is for public safety," Carr told the board. "This isn't a want any more; it's a need. This is really the last piece of our 800 system and we'll be fully operational."

During last year's Green Valley fire, Wadena authorities relied on Hubbard County's updated dispatch equipment, said Luke Mandershied, the county's emergency management director. Without the help, he said, "it would have been a communications nightmare."

"We're not able to do the capabilities that we're supposed to be able to do," Mandershied said.

The Motorola MCC 7500 consoles allow dispatchers to "seamlessly integrate" into the radio network, providing reliable service for "mission critical communications," according to the company website.

Carr said the sheriff's office will pay the county back within seven to 10 years at one percent interest with money from the E911 fund. He credited his team, particularly Mandershied, for fetching a substantially lower price than the original quote from Motorola, $595,000.

"We did get this dwindled down," Carr said. "That's as low as we're going to get it."

In other business June 24, the board:

• Learned the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources plans to seek legislative funding to buy up private lands adjacent to or surrounded by Huntersville State Forest and nearby wildlife management areas.

• Heard a presentation from Marian Ridge, director of the Kitchigami Regional Library System. She explained changes to the organization's outreach program, which include a pilot "pop-up library" the first and third Tuesday mornings of every month at the Sebeka senior center. Wadena County's increased costs for those service, Ridge said, are due to heavy usage and the fact the system plans to maintain service at all three outreach locations (Menahga, Nimrod and Sebeka), while locations have been cut in Cass and Crow Wing counties. Kitchigami also intends to implement year round outreach services - currently they're offered for 11 months - in Wadena County, Ridge said.

• Approved Bryan Savaloja as Wadena County deputy director of emergency management. The position, which had been vacant, is required by state statute. The additional title will not change the sheriff's deputies duties or his compensation, Carr said.

• Authorized the human services department to hire a child protection social worker to replace one who left in May. Child protection workers at Wadena County Human Services have nearly three times the caseload of surrounding counties, Director Tanya Leskey said.

• Signed off on a $14,655 expenditure to transition human services' children and family service unit to paperless record keeping. Leskey said that will leave the adult unit as the only department left to convert. "That will be a part of the the budget proposal for the next year," she said, noting the federal government reimburses 30 percent of the cost.

• Retained Gallagher Public Entity and Scholastic Group as the county's insurance consultant for 2015. For $14,000, the consultant will provide assistance with Affordable Care Act compliance, administer benefits, assist with union relations as well as provide individual assistance and wellness support to employees.

• Agreed to hire Jeff Miller and Aaron Schiller as permanent part-time jailer/dispatchers.

• Renewed the liquor license for The Outpost in Huntersville.