Fillmore County Sheriff Daryl Jensen holds his cell phone to the microphone at the Fillmore County commissioners' meeting to demonstrate how the Code Red alert system works.
Fillmore County Sheriff Daryl Jensen holds his cell phone to the microphone at the Fillmore County commissioners' meeting to demonstrate how the Code Red alert system works.
Fillmore County residents will soon have access to emergency notifications through Code Red Communications Network, a company that compiles "a database of phone numbers" that is used to send emergency alerts such as weather, missing persons and selected emergency information to home and cell phones.

Fillmore County Sheriff Daryl Jensen spoke to the Fillmore County Board of Commissioners this past Tuesday morning to explain what the service includes.

"It's something we haven't had in rural areas. People ask us about sirens, but what we've done is not just emergency notification ... you can choose what you want to send out to people," noted Jensen.

"The weather component goes through the National Weather Service, except in the winter because they issue winter weather advisories at a certain time of the day - and nobody wants to answer their phone in the middle of the night for that - and the rest, we can decide what we want to send out to where, like if we have a missing person in the Spring Valley area, we have an option to use Code Red's services to alert people. It's a web-based product and we can choose the area it goes to."

Jensen demonstrated to the board how the alert might sound if an iPhone owner were to receive a notification about a missing person.

"This is an iPhone app, but listen..."

The notification told of a missing person, that person's description, when and where he was last seen and more.

Jensen added, "We're really going to push this information, try to get everybody who wants to subscribe to it to sign up. Two phones per household can subscribe - it's kind of an antiquated thought to go with database full landline numbers, so my wife and I would be able to subscribe and get the service on our cell phones."

He said he would like to see the information regarding Code Red included in various forms of communication with county residents, as it is a service that Houston, Winona and Dodge counties already provide to their residents free of charge. The costs would be to the county.

The sheriff pointed out that he had investigated another database company, City Watch, that "offers basically the same product," but that he liked Code Red's services better.

"We've asked Code Red to provide a contract to us, and Mr. Corson (county attorney Brett Corson) reviewed the contract. He found a couple issues we're not comfortable with. In negotiations with Code Red, one of our concerns is that the contract has automatic renewal each year. From my standpoint, I like that, but to protect the county, it's probably the right way to do it if we don't automatically renew. I think we've reached an agreement that requires renewal by both parties."

County Commissioner Duane Bakke inquired, "Is there an opt-out that they sign?"

Jensen replied, "We're agreeing to rest of 2012 and 2013, and at the end of 2013, we'll renegotiate it and bring it for approval."

Bakke asked, "Does Dodge County know what the costs will be for a three year contract?" The sheriff answered that Dodge County knows the cost, but that if at any time additional information is submitted, extra costs will be incurred.

"It's not a complete solution because you have to have cell phone coverage, but it's pretty nice, a free service. We're paying the subscription fee, and that takes care of the costs, which are paid through 911 funds."

The board approved the county engaging in a contract with Code Red, pending review of renewal language.

Corson presented a request to participate in a lawsuit initiated by Hennepin County against Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae in an effort to recover deed transfer taxes not paid in the past six years as part of real estate transactions. He stated that Hennepin County would "front the costs," that its staff would do the work involved, and if the taxes are not recovered, Fillmore County would not have to pay anything. If the counties were to prevail, Fillmore County would pay "up to 10 percent."

Commissioners inquired as to how much might be at stake, and Corson replied, "It sounds like several million dollars would be a conservative estimate statewide ... there's a potential for 10 million to 11.2 million statewide over the alleged time period. What it's ultimately going to end up being, I don't know."

Chairman Tom Kaase said, "One of the points I'm trying to make is that if the dollars from this aren't that great, then if the staff has to put in time and the amount spent is greater...."

Corson reassured the commissioners that the most paid to Hennepin County would be that 10 percent, and Commissioner Chuck Amunrud made a motion to write a letter of support for the lawsuit. The vote passed and the county hopes to see some additional revenue from participation in the lawsuit.

Next, county engineer John Grindeland asked the board to consider a resolution for final payment of $93,356.31 to Midwest Construction for a Canton Township road construction project.

Bakke inquired what the timeline for the project is, and when the asphalt will be laid. Grindeland replied that the road will be paved next year. The commissioners noted that they were surprised that paving has not begun on County Road 5 between Wykoff and Forestville, but Grindeland informed them that the paving should be complete by Oct. 15, the date which is set as the contractor's construction end date.

Human Resources representative Kristina Kohn requested that the commissioners hire a replacement deputy to patrol Harmony, Mabel and Canton, as the deputy who worked there has been promoted to a county deputy. The contract was posted internally, and Sheriff Jensen noted that Dan Dornink, who is currently a full-time dispatcher, will take that position. Internal advertisement will be done to replace Dornink.

Kohn also said the county will welcome its new engineer, Ronald Gregg, on Friday, Oct. 19, as the original expected start date was Nov. 2 or Nov. 9.

"We're working on discussion with the current county engineer regarding the transfer of duties, and for Mr. Gregg to start on Oct. 19, that gives him two weeks' notice, and it also lets the current engineer step aside after getting things together for a smooth transition."

The commissioners accepted the resignation of Alice Terbeest, who is retiring after 25 years as an office support staff member. Since she holds a somewhat specialized position, Kohn asked that the board allow internal advertisement for her replacement to take place within the next week or more.

Next, Jensen asked the commissioners to consider approval of the 2013 Toward Zero Death grant agreement with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

"It's a program we've been in for almost 10 years now," he said, and the grant totals $12,960 plus matching funds.

The board also passed a resolution to renew the 2012-2013 joint powers agreement with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, as the association with the joint powers agreement allows the sheriff's office to "get assistance from others in the area of Internet crimes against children."

Jensen said, "I'd like to continue the program. It's at no cost to us ... we've seen an increase in these crimes and we'd like to get one of our people trained in computer forensics, things that make our department and our response to these crimes better."

Sheila Craig, of the Extension Services office, presented surveyor and appraisal quotes for the Greenleafton wastewater treatment project that will install city sewer lines in the rural village, and the lowest bidder for each was awarded the project. She added that "we're working on option to buy and the subordinate service district, and I hope bring something back soon."

The consent agenda included seven items: Veterans Services Officer Jason Marquardt was granted regular employee status effective Sept. 30; Cynthia Blagsvedt was re-appointed as county assessor for a four-year term effective Jan. 1, 2013; and publication of the 2011 financial statement as recommended by county auditor and treasurer Shirl Boelter was approved.