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$502K grant will assist Meeker County in funding its new emergency radio network

LITCHFIELD -- Meeker County has been awarded a $502,000 grant to help fund the new 800 MHz emergency radio network.

The county is pursuing additional grants to help off-set the nearly $4 million project that's part of the state's Allied Radio Matrix for Emergency Response system, known as ARMER, said County Administrator Paul Virnig.

The grant from the 17-county Central Minnesota Regional Radio Board will be used to increase capacity for the county's system that's necessary because of the high level of radio traffic of it's two neighbors, Stearns County and Wright County.

Virnig said County Board Chairman Wally Strand and County Sheriff Jeff Norlin worked hard to get the grant approved by the board to cover the "unique costs" the county will incur in order to communicate with its high-traffic neighbors.

The radio board has a "pot of money" that's distributed to counties who need help with the transmission of the new radio system, Virnig said.

The grant involved considerable time and effort by Strand and Norlin and wasn't obtained by "just putting your name in a hat," he said.

The county is still waiting to hear if it will receive additional grants from other sources for the radio network.

At their meeting Tuesday, commissioners also took action on applying for a $137,000 grant to upgrade a 4.8 mile bike trail between Dassel and Cokato and agreed to apply for a $280,000 grant for the Crow River Wheelers to develop an all-terrain vehicle park on a 40-acre park in Ellsworth Township.

Following their regular meeting, the county board met with township supervisors to discuss issues, like road maintenance and a federal requirement to upgrade road signs.

Virnig said although the county is "clearing roads quicker and better than ever" they've received more complaints that usual this winter about.

"We're doing more than ever," Virnig said. "But it's still not good enough."

With 2,100 miles of roads to plow after a snowfall, Virnig said not all rural roads can be cleared in an hour.

With the additional cuts in state aid expected for counties, Virnig said there may be some reductions made to the county highway department and its level of service.

When it comes to state budget cuts, Virnig said it appears counties have become the governor's "whipping boys" and that counties are bearing a disproportionate level of the state's financial burden.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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