RC commends sheriff’s office, but not radio upgrade issue

By Jon Tatting—

The Rush City Council this week commended the sheriff’s office for its efforts last year in curbing crime and cleaning up the junk vehicle problem in town.

Smiles turned to frowns, however, when councilors later discussed the city/county subscriber agreement involving the 800 MHz radio system upgrade.

During the Jan. 23 city council meeting, Chisago County Deputy Jason Foster presented a breakdown of the 2011 calls for service in Rush City. Of the 1,408 total calls, he noted, many were medicals (214) while sex crimes (10) increased by four or five calls from 2010.

Deputies further responded to several burglaries and thefts from vehicles, continued Foster, noting most of the cases have been cleared with the offenders prosecuted.

Councilors Al Hoffman and Jamie Amundson were especially pleased with the deputies who had a hand in removing 30 junk vehicles from yards through the citywide junk vehicle ordinance, which was enacted last August to control the eyesore.

“I’d like to commend the sheriff’s office for getting rid of all those junked vehicles,” Amundson stated. Fellow councilors agreed, “It looks better around town.”

Meanwhile, “the (police service) contract is going well,” and three full-time deputies have Rush City covered both night and day, said Foster.

800 MHz radio upgrade

The council was not so pleased with Chisago County’s 2012 Communications System Subscriber Agreement, which identifies Rush City as a subscriber in the 800 MHz radio system upgrade.

The upgrade is anticipated to go “live” by the end of June.

Under the agreement:

The city would act as a subscriber with end user radios (whether portable, mobile or desktop) operating on the system.

Rush City, as other “users” associated with the system, would pay Chisago County an annual subscriber fee of $480 per radio, with the county purchasing the actual radio units.

Radios can only be purchased subject to county approval and “will be treated as if owned by the county.” The county may monitor “talk groups” at any time, without notice, and are subject to recording.

Radios that are damaged, lost, stolen or destroyed will be replaced by the county, and the additional expense will be billed across the entire system — rather than the user that lost or damaged the device — through the annual subscriber fee.

However, some have questioned why a city is required to pay a full year of user fees for a half year of service during the initial year.

At their meeting Monday night, councilors voiced frustration over the measures and costs they would need to comply with and spend when there is no guarantee the upgrade will work with the lack of tower coverage in northern Chisago County.

That’s a lot of money for something that might not work, said Councilor Jamie Amundson.

Others agreed to see if other options or alternatives could be pursued while remaining on board with the 800 MHz radio system upgrade.

The council also thought it a good idea to invite Bob Shoemaker of the sheriff’s office to its next council meeting and discuss the issue further.

As for the contract, councilors cited lack of sufficient information as reason for not taking action on the subscriber agreement with Chisago County. This while the county wants the contract in place in 30 days, noted City Administrator Amy Mell.

In other news, the council:

• Set an open house for people and businesses to discuss and prepare for this year’s 4th Street Turnback project. Councilors agreed on Wednesday, March 1, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the community center.

• Approved Steve Carlson as first assistant chief of the Rush City Fire Department.

• Agreed on paying the final amount of $13,730 to Knife River Corp. for work on the 2010 street improvements.

• Learned the next Community Read begins with a mayoral kickoff on Wednesday, Feb. 1 at 6 p.m. at the Rush City library. The read involves the book, “Blind Your Ponies,” along with the youth companion, “Last Shot.”

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