Drivers know how disturbing it is to see flashing lights in the rear view mirror. But according to Scott McConkey, a traffic stop just might save your life.
McConkey serves as law enforcement liaison for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety's Office of Traffic Safety. He's also state coordinator for the department's “Toward Zero Deaths” program.
Appearing before Houston County commissioners on July 8, McConkey awarded the Sheriff's Department with a cutting-edge radar unit, valued at between $3000 to $4000. The reason? For “having shown a considerable commitment to the Toward Zero Death effort,” he said.
“It's very important to keep people safe when they get in the car and drive.... It's how we live, but unfortunately, it's how we die as well...
“The sheriff's office has joined other agencies across the state. We try to mobilize, together, and push various topics forward. We're not just making that change of behavior one traffic stop at a time, but we're trying to change everybody's way of thinking. We'll have enforcement ways that deal with DWI, seatbelts, speeding, the move over (law)....
“For (Houston County's) efforts in DWI, speed, seatbelt, and aggressive and inattentive driving, they were selected for this award.”
McConkey reminded the board “your cops are not mean. When they make a traffic stop, they're not doing it to be mean. A ticket may cost $100 to $125. What is that? A pair of jeans? But if that (ticket) can save a life....
“I knew a young lady from Wells who took off her seatbelt 10 minutes before she crashed. Now she's paralyzed for life.
“This is a tool that will keep people safe.”
The box containing the new Stalker DSR 2X was handed over to Sheriff Doug Ely in person. McConkey reported that the device is “one of the most advanced and easiest to use law enforcement traffic radars; it is actually two independent radar units operating on a single, 5-window, multi-color display.
The board voted to approve two conditional use permit applications. The first was for Verizon Wireless to construct a 250-foot tall telecommunications tower near the Spring Grove city limits. Landowner Paul Solum will lease a 75x75 foot site to the company, which spokesman Curt Walter said would support new 4G LTE equipment.
The second CUP will be issued to Arlin and Susan Peterson of Sheldon Township, who will now be able to build a dwelling on a lot of less than 40 acres in an ag district.
Other ballots approved granting regular employment status to three county employees, just as soon as they finish their first year of (probationary) service. Engineering supervisor Justin Conway will begin regular employment on July 15, while Social Services supervisor Timothy Hunter will have regular status on July 23. Home care coordinator Marsha Bauer will be eligible on Aug. 5.
With the county auction due prior to the Houston County Fair, the board also voted to accept the services of low-bidder Lee Babler of Babler Auction Service, Caledonia. With a 6 percent commission, Babler's sealed bid was the lowest of four offers.
During the public comment session, resident Robin Tschumper said that the frac sand ordinance writing committee had adjourned recently rather than be videotaped by her husband. She charged the group with a lack of transparency and violating open meeting law. Later, Chair Teresa Walter said that the group had originally set parameters that included no videotaping. “When the videotaping came up, Ken (Tschumper) requested having it in writing, so we're pursuing getting information from our attorney in writing,” she stated.
Commissioner Justin Zmyewski brought a suggestion that also kicked off some debate, when he asked for a public hearing before setting a limit on spending towards a new highway department headquarters.
“Let's hear what the people have to say,” Zmyewski said. “Obviously, we've got one plan that we've gone through, and we've talked about a second plan... We need to get some public input before we get too deep into this. Let the people get their comments in on where they want their money spent. I think that would be very beneficial.”
Several commissioners said that the board needs to have more facts on the project before a public hearing can be called.
“I know what happened with other buildings that we purchased or built,” Zmyewski said. “After the fact, people come in and get mad... It only takes three people (commissioners) to push an issue.”
Later, Commissioner Dana Kjome asked if the Roverud Construction building in Spring Grove was still in the running to serve as a new headquarters/shop, rather than spending millions on new construction. Commissioner Steve Schuldt said, “It wouldn't be prudent for us to spend more than the property is appraised for.”