This week, Polk County Sheriff Barb Erdman, Deputy Karl Erickson and Director of Emergency Management Nancy Shafer presented options for upgrading Polk County's emergency response system at the County Commissioners Board meeting.
As the county 911 system currently stands it will need to be upgraded to meet standards set forth by the state. The choice the Sheriff's Office and County Commissioners must make is to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars upgrading current analog equipment or to switch to a new digital system, with much improved radio coverage, with costs approaching the million dollar mark.
The issue, besides cost, is this - if the county switches to ARMER, the digital dispatch system being used by several counties throughout the state and under consideration by many others, other local agencies, such as the Crookston Police Department, EMS and the Fire Department would need to upgrade their radio equipment to accept digital signals. Although several local emergency response agencies say they are "on-board", it all comes down to dollars.
If the County chooses to go with ARMER, it is a distinct probability that they will receive grant money from the State to cover a portion of the costs. However, before the grant application can be completed, the County Commissioner's must agree to implement the new system in 2013. Even with the grant in place, the county would still be responsible for a large portion of the cost.
The County Commissioners chose not to make a decision at their meeting on Tuesday. Rather, the subject is to be continued at their next meeting on March 5, after they have had a chance to tour the current dispatch facility and determine all viable options.