Sheriff Daryl Jensen brought a litany of items to the Fillmore County Board on Tuesday, Nov. 6. Many had to do with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) narrowband radio mandate that will occur on Jan. 1. Other items of discussion included emergency equipment and weapons. Finally, a protracted talk about the Fillmore County Jail brought up the specter of some potentially expensive repairs.

The board approved spending $98,655 for the replacement of VHF repeaters and tower base stations for narrowband radio compliance.

"There's 55 days left before narrowband becomes mandatory," Jensen said. "We've run out of time." The equipment will be supplied by Whitewater Wireless of Rochester.

While Fillmore County is still in the running for a FEMA equipment grant which would have been used for the purchases, the county will now have to bear that cost, Jensen said. That's because potential grant monies cannot be spent on already-ordered items. If FEMA comes through, the funds can be used for other ongoing upgrades, he added.

Two Motorola 800 MHz "consolettes" were approved for the same compliance program and will cost $11,590 to provide redundant links to emergency communications towers, Jensen reported.

Whitewater was also approved to provide a $10,348 "combiner" to put all back-up consolettes on one antenna.

A $10,000 Public Safety Emergency Communication Network grant was approved to pay for "next generation" E911 conversions.

"The grant is paying for changes that we need to make in our building," Jensen told commissioners.

A quote from E911 provider Independent Emergency Services will be paid from the source. The company will provide upgrades for automatic location information and voice pre-migration to new communications gear for $2,609.

Also, a quote from Morem's Electric for $775 to provide two 20-amp receptacles will be paid from the same source.

Commissioners also approved the purchase of 18 automatic external defibrillators to go into county squad cars. Next Generation Safety LLC will provide the units for $29,345. The cost will be covered by a Health and Human Services Rural Access to Emergency Devices grant.

Deputy Sheriff Jesse Grabau said the price included special hard-sided "pelican cases" that will allow the units to "bounce around" in vehicles without damage. No local matching funds are needed for the purchase, reported county coordinator/clerk Karen Brown.

In other news, the board approved an offer from police equipment supplier KEEPRS to take 17 used pistols in trade and supply 26 fourth-generation Glock sidearms to the sheriff's department. The cost of $6,625 will come out of forfeiture funds.

Finally, commissioners approved a health care savings plan "letter of understanding" with Law Enforcement Labor Services. The letter will carry forward language originally approved in the 2011 contract into the 2012-14 contract.

Jail inspection finds flaws

Jensen provided an inspection report from the Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) for the Fillmore County Jail. A June 27, 2012, walk-through is the latest in a series to note the need for improvements, he reported.

Senior Detention Facility Inspector Greg Croucher noted, "The last few inspections of the Fillmore County Jail has documented infrastructure issues, most notably plumbing. As the facility ages, parts to repair become harder to find and require retro-fitting. Most inmate showers and toilets are in need of replacement or renovation as the walls around the toilets are deteriorating and the shower enclosures and floors are difficult to keep clean and sanitary. There are also ceiling vents in some cell blocks that are not detention-grade and are in need of replacement."

Jensen said that DOC has requested a long-term plan to address HVAC, infrastructure, and "other physical plant issues."

Commissioners watched a power-point slide show consisting of photos of the interior of the jail, showing a wide range of deterioration in the aging building.

"Some of these look pretty bad," Jensen said. "We still got a good rating (from DOC) but they want to see a plan from us."

"To do nothing is not an option," Chairman Thomas Kaase said following the presentation.

Commissioner Marc Prestby said the jail committee studied the situation around 10 years ago. He urged the board to dust off those plans as a starting place.

Commissioner Randy Dahl said "a good remodel" is what's needed. "I'm not in favor of not having a jail," he stated.

"We need a fiscal analysis," Commissioner Chuck Amunrud said. "We should look into one or two different solutions."

"There are a lot of alternatives to building a new 17 million dollar jail," Jensen said.