New radio dispatch system gains ground
A new era in emergency radio communications is making progress in Douglas County.
Douglas County Sheriff Troy Wolbersen wants to move forward with the Allied Radio Matrix for Emergency Response (ARMER) system for Douglas County.
He asked Douglas County commissioners at its last board meeting for approval to order and purchase a four-position public safety dispatch console, which would resolve concerns with the current dispatch console that was purchased in 1996.
"We need to start taking steps and making some purchases," he said. "We need to have a signed contract before moving ahead."
Wolbersen said the proposed dispatch console is designed to be interoperable with the county's existing communication network, as well as the new ARMER 800 megahertz system and radios.
Motorola, the only company with approved consoles, is working on a final design and cost proposal. The estimated cost for a four-station console unit, said Wolbersen, is between $630,000 and $650,000.
Wolbersen noted that Motorola is the only company approved by the state of Minnesota. A representative with Motorola was at the board meeting and explained that back in 2006, the state went out to bid for the ARMER system and Motorola won the contract.
Commissioner Paul Anderson asked the sheriff what if the county combined with other counties in the future and there was a regional dispatch center; would the equipment fit where needed?
Wolbersen explained that the console, which in essence is a computer, could fit anywhere.
"To move a console is to move a computer," he said. He also added that there would be little to no cost-savings for a regional dispatch with other counties. Wolbersen said the best option would be for two counties - particularly Douglas and Pope - to combine, but that if consolidated, there would still be a need for staff members such as jailers.
Anderson said it was just something to keep in mind.
Wolbersen explained that there is a financial plan in place to pay for the four-position console, which includes the following:
Start with the proposed cost: $650,000.
Subtract Grant 1, which has a 50 percent match: $255,877 (grant) and $255,877 (county).
End with the remaining console cost: $138,246.
Subtract Grant 2, which has no match by the county: $175,000.
End with grant funds remaining: $36,754.
Anderson said as long as the state approved the bid, he was comfortable with it and asked for a motion to go ahead with the purchase of the console.
Commissioner Dan Olson made the motion and Commissioner Norm Salto seconded it for discussion.
Commissioner Jerry Johnson asked about the timeline for delivery if the board signed the agreement.
"When would it be delivered?" he asked.
The Motorola representative told the commissioners that the earliest would probably be June.
After a little more discussion, the soon-to-be new county auditor/treasurer, Char Rosenow, reminded the commissioners that back in January of this year, they set aside $2.8 million for the ARMER project.
A vote was taken and the motion to move ahead with the purchase was approved 4 to 1.
Commissioner Bev Bales voted against it.