Expensive county projects on budget, says administrator

By Derrick Knutson—

Chisago County Administrator Bruce Messelt said during a committee meeting last week the three big projects the county has undertaken this year are all on budget, and the county could even come in below expected cost as long as no unforeseen expenses arise.

The most expensive project the county is in the process of implementing is “Allied Radio Matrix Emergency Response,” or “ARMER.”

The county had to upgrade its radio system due to an unfunded federal mandate first approved in the 1990s that requires counties to reduce the amount of bandwidth they’re using on emergency radio frequencies.

Thus, counties across the state have been switching over to the digital ARMER, which uses much less bandwidth and allows emergency service providers easier access to integral radio frequencies needed for communication.

The project cost was estimated at $11.1 million, but Messelt said current projections have ARMER costing about $8.9 million.

Those expenses include portable radio units, training county workers on how to use the system, software and the construction of the towers needed for the radio network.

Messelt did throw in the caveat that the project has not yet “gone live” – the date ARMER will officially be up-and-running is planned for June 26 – and there could be some additional costs incurred before that time.

The county bonded for the project, and Messelt estimated about two months ago it would take the county about 20 years to pay off those bonds.

Emergency Communications Center

The county’s new Emergency Communication Center, which will be located near Hazelden Addiction Treatment Center off Highway 8, was projected to come in at about $2.2 million.

To coincide with the launch of ARMER, the county plans to have the center finished in late June.

The project is about $168,000 over the projected cost, but the county board had earlier approved an additional $119,000 in funding for the center, so the project is very close to on budget, Messelt said.

Records management

The county’s new records management system, Pro Phoenix, which has been in operation for about the past two months, is also running very close to the cost projected to implement it.

The total expenditure for that software was $1.34 million, and setting it up ended up costing the county about $1.3 million.

The county was able to secure grants to the tune of $1.6 million since 2009, which has helped offset some of the costs associated with building the new communications center and buying Pro Phoenix.

“We’re running about 95 percent on target with those (three) expenditures,” Messelt said. It’s pretty healthy budgeting right now.”

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