FAIRMONT - Time is running out for a mandated emergency response radio upgrade, and a sudden price hike on the portable units pushed the Martin County Commissioners into taking action.
"We had to step this up because there is a price change coming through Motorola," said Martin County Sheriff's Department Capt. Corey Klanderud during a meeting Tuesday. "The 2500 series portable radios will be going up by $400 apiece on orders not received by Thursday. For us, that will increase the cost by $147,000."
This is after the sheriff's department trimmed back the order as much as possible. But the cost of all the new equipment still carries a $1.1 million price tag.
"You did do an exceptional job on paring it down," commissioner Steve Pierce said to Sheriff Jeff Markquart.
Klanderud also pointed out that even without the threatened price hike, it was time to place the big order.
"We were in line for needing to do this because it will take several weeks to get the radios, program them and begin testing," he said. "The towers should be in operation by then. There's dirt work done at the Fairmont tower, but once they start going up, it goes pretty quick."
Fortunately, the county still has some time on writing the check.
"We are not required to pay until it arrives, is installed and operating," Pierce said.
A member of the auditor's office was at the meeting and also showed the commissioners ways the county could pay cash out of reserves for the equipment without having to issue bonds. This would enable the county to still apply for grants, and if necessary, borrow for the project at a later date and get reimbursed if necessary.
"We can still apply for grants in the fall," Klanderud said. "But we are not able to keep waiting to see if the third time's a charm."
"Why burden the taxpayers when we don't need to?" Pierce asked. "I don't want to burden the taxpayers with debt."
Commissioner Dan Schmidtke agreed, but was still cautious of what it would mean down the road: "We also need to think of the budget, and how much we will end up needing to levy."
The board approved ordering the equipment, but took no action on which avenue of payment the county would use.
"We can order, but we're not writing the check yet," commissioner chairman Steve Donnelly said.
In other business, the commissioners held their Board of Equalization meeting following the regular meeting. Martin County Assessor Dan Whitman stated that agricultural land prices have continued to increase at alarming rates.
"Our values show an estimated best value of ag land would be $6,825 a square acre, but in the past week, I've seen sales go for $11,250 an acre, $9,300 an acre and $8,375 an acre," Whitman said. "Some counties might be looking at a 50 percent increase just in order to keep up."
The board reviewed eight property assessments, with the assessor's office recommending decreases in value in all eight cases. None of the property owners involved turned up to speak or appeal, and all the recommendations were approved.