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County commissioners between rock, hard place

February 23, 2012
Gary Andersen, Lee Smith , Fairmont Sentinel

Martin County commissioners are right to be frustrated as they try to finance a mandatory upgrade of the emergency radio system used by police, firefighters and ambulance crews. The new system must be in place by Jan. 1.

County officials have been waiting, and waiting, and waiting for an announcement on grant funding that would cover 60 percent of the $1.2 million upgrade. If the grant comes, the county's share is $500,000. If the grant doesn't come, the county's share rises to the full amount.

To make matters worse, while the county waits, legislation is pending in St. Paul that could force the county to sell bonds by May 13 to pay for the radio upgrade. Otherwise, the county would have to look to its budget to find the money, and it doesn't have anywhere it can cut that much.

Adding insult to injury, if the county sells bonds to cover the radio upgrade, doing so could prevent it from receiving grant funding.

It's no wonder local officials are often perturbed by the mandates, rules and regulations forced down upon them from above. In this instance, the whole process seems like a cruel joke.

Apparently, the one out is that our area lawmakers may be able to help carve out an exception to the proposed legislation, giving the county more flexibility as it tries to be diligent in getting the radios upgraded. We know our lawmakers will lend a hand.



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