|Martin County has been denied a federal grant needed to complete mandatory emergency communication upgrades for the second straight year.The Federal Emergency Management Agency grant would have covered several of the 800-megahertz portable radios to be used by Fairmont Fire Department rescue units as well as ambulance services.|
Northland Securities' Bill Fahey, the county's financial advisor says "that's half the units in the county. It's cut off the most fundamental piece of safety"."The county should push for the grant money through the state's congressional delegation" Fahey recommended.
Letters are essential; they need to be directly from police chiefs, fire chiefs," Fahey said. "They need to know that this all came from the feds in the first place. They sold it to the states, and all the people that were selling it got paid. The only way to solve this is politically because it was started politically." .
Some of the more wealthy counties got grant money, yet we were denied." according to Bill Fahey. He told commissioners that letters written to U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., from other counties have been effective. Commissioner Steve Pierce pointed out another reason the county should not start bonding for the radios just yet saying "We know the feds are known for their mandates, then backing off. It's likely we'll see an extension of this timeline".
Martin County Sheriff Jeff Markquart also noted that despite the Jan. 1 deadline, the current radio systems will still work.
"We'd be out of compliance," he said. "But we wouldn't be off the air".
Of the 10 counties in the south-central Minnesota region, seven have been approved for grants. McLeod and Sibley counties were also excluded.
Bill Fahey suggested that instead of bonding, the county could issue short-term notes. That way, if grant money comes through, the grant would cover the notes.
No action was taken on the suggestion to sell notes, but letters will be sent to U.S. Sens. Klobuchar and Al Franken, D-Minn., along with Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., as well as state Rep. Bob Gunther, R-Fairmont, and state Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont.
© 2010 KSUM.