County-wide narrow band radio conversion project about complete
By Charlie Warner
Several years ago Houston County Chief Deputy Scott Yeiter brought a very ambitious plan before the county board. Yeiter explained that state, county and local two-way radio communication would soon be converted from the VHS wide band system to an 800 megahertz narrow band system.
While the mandated conversion was going to be an enormous endeavor for most counties, the high bluffs and low valleys that make up Houston County’s topography made it even more challenging.
The original estimates to have the county converted over and enough radio towers to do away with any “dead spots” was between $2 million and $2.5 million. To pay for this conversion, the county board planned to bond for the money.
Yeiter was able to search the “grant bushes” and shake the “money trees” to the tune of $883,023, so far.
At the June 5 county board meeting, Yeiter said the county is anticipating a reimbursement of approximately $387,634 to help pay for the new narrow band dispatch system in the Justice Center and another $31,950 to help with the purchase of new radios for county departments.
When it’s all said and done, the county will have 453 narrow band radios on the system and five radio towers. And Yeiter and company will have “found” more than $1.3 million in grants and matching funds. Instead of over $2 million coming out of Houston County taxpayers’ pockets, the county will end up spending just less than $400,000 in fund balance expenditures for the entire project.
“We’re getting very close to completing this project and we were very fortunate to obtain the amount of grants and matching funds we did to help pay for the vast majority of the conversion,” Yeiter said.
In other board action:
Elderly care contracts
Public Health Nursing Director Deb Rock brought the elderly care provider contracts to the board to be approved for three more years. Rock explained that there are 28 contracts with various agencies and organizations that are funded through state programs. Their aim is to keep elderly persons in their homes by providing in-home care and transportation services.
A motion by Commissioner Teresa Walter and seconded by Commissioner Justin Zmyewski to approve the 28 contracts was unanimously approved.
The board approved a change in Human Services Financial Assistance Supervisor Karen Kohlmeyer’s status from probationary to regular full-time, effective on her anniversary date.
The board approved the hiring of Anita Bashaw as a drop site supervisor at a starting wage of $11.52 an hour.
The board accepted the resignation of Dorothy Schulte as a home health aide, effective May 31 and added Diane Giese as a roster home health aide to work as needed at a starting wage of $11.99 an hour.
The board approved a matching grant agreement with Mn/DOT to have the fuel tanks at the Houston County Airport cleaned. The county will no longer be selling jet fuel at the airport, but will continue selling aviation fuel. The tank that was used for jet fuel must be cleaned out.
The anticipated cost of removing the remaining fuel and cleaning the tank was approximately $3,000. The state and county will share in the cost of the project 50-50.
Road repair bids
The board awarded a road repair project on CSAH 26 in Money Creek Township near Rushford to Winona Excavating for $1,125,254. A portion of the county road had been damaged during the 2007 floods and never repaired properly.
The county received a second bid from Griffin Construction, Inc. for $1,222,164. The engineer’s estimate for the project was $1,165,244.
Old jail discussed again
The board spent some time discussing the future of the 137-year-old jail, which has sat empty since the completion of the County Justice Center last fall.
Zmyewski said he learned the original portion of the building, which is on the National Registry of Historic Places, is much smaller than what is there now. At some point and time the jail was added on to.
Zmyewski wondered if the county could reduce the structure down to the original footprint and still be in compliance with the National Registry.
Walter thought the county should attempt to go through the process of having the old jail removed from the National Registry and if that proves successful, have it razed at that time. If they are not successful with having it taken off the Registry, make contingency plans at that time.
Zmyewski felt it would be good to have Historical Society staff attend a county board meeting, tour the jail and then discuss options with the county board.
County Zoning Administrator Bob Scanlan brought a preliminary plat request to rezone the property the Jehovah’s Witness Church was situated on in Union Township to a residential subdivsion. Josh Ross recently purchased the church building and plans to convert it into a single family home.
The Houston County Planning Commission reviewed the request and recommended it be approved.
Scanlan said is was a very simple request, all of the utilities were in place and up to code.
A motion by Walter and seconded by Commissioner Steve Schuldt to approve the preliminary plat was unanimously approved.
The board also approved 11 building permits.