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Swift Co. receives $500K grant for 800-megahertz radios for fire personnel

BENSON -- A major federal grant will help equip Swift County firefighters with new emergency radios.

The Swift County Board of Commissioners were told Tuesday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Department of Homeland Security is providing a $521,197 grant to be used to purchase 800-megahertz radios for county firefighters.

The commissioners agreed to pay the local share of $27,431.

"It's a gift from above," said County Auditor Byron Giese.

The county was scheduled to meet with the fire chiefs Wednesday in Kerkhoven to discuss what model of radios to buy and how many.

"We'll be there to show our support," Giese said.

The city of Kerkhoven will act as the fiscal agent because the county isn't allowed to, he said.

The radios will be compatible with the new 800-megahertz emergency radio network that's being installed or already used in many area counties.

Although the grant money can only be used to purchase radios for the fire departments, existing radios used by those departments can be passed onto other emergency agencies like first responders or ambulances.

Giese said the local fire departments wouldn't have been able to purchase the new radios without the grant.

He said the county has been fortunate by receiving generous FEMA grants in the last decade. He said many of the community fire departments have received new fire trucks because of the federal funds.

The commissioners approved a three-year contract with it's law enforcement employees. The contract, ratified by the Law Enforcement Labor Services, includes a 2 percent raise this year, a 1½ percent increase in 2012 and a 1 percent increase in 2013.

The package also includes increased life and disability insurance.

On a 3-2 vote the commissioners eliminated self-imposed term limits for serving on various county committees.

About 10 years ago the commissioners agreed they should rotate on committees and only remain on one committee for a maximum of nine years.

Giese said some commissioners said that if they were passionate about a committee or a field they should be allowed to remain on that committee.

Commissioners Doug Anderson, Pete Peterson and Joe Fox voted to repeal the term limits and Commissioners Gary Hendrickx and Gary Klemm voted no.

In other action:

- The Commissioners agreed to provide a no-interest loan of $20,000 to the fair board for the purchase of 11 acres of land for future expansion of the fair grounds.

- There was discussion but no action on a request for maintenance of cemeteries in the county.

There are about 50 cemeteries and 30 are in disrepair, said Giese. Local units of government, like the county and townships, could be financially responsible for maintaining them. Additional meetings on the issue are expected.

- Hendrickx was elected to serve as chairman for 2011 and Peterson was elected to serve as vice chairman.

Carolyn Lange

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

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