The Anoka County Board May 27 approved the final two contracts that will result in the county having a shared, fully integrated public safety data system.
One was with FDM Software Ltd. for the purchase and installation of a fire records management system for an amount totaling $663,940 and the second contract was for the upgrade of the existing countywide jail records system with Police Central Inc. totaling $670,000 for software and services, plus up to $58,500 for the first year of software maintenance for a contract maximum of $728,500.
In November 2012, the county board approved two contracts with TriTech Software with a not to exceed amount of $6.11 million for the installation of computer aided dispatch for Anoka County Central Communications plus a new law enforcement records system, both hardware and software.
In estimates prepared last fall, the computer aided dispatch and law enforcement contract was pegged at $6.2 million; the fire records at $730,000; and the jail upgrade at $695,000.
The contracts are the result of several years of work by the Anoka County Joint Law Enforcement Council, which comprises representatives of all law enforcement agencies in the county, city councils and the county board, and the Anoka County Fire Protection Council, which has representatives from all fire departments in the county.
The current systems are old, outdated and fragmented, according to Anoka County Attorney Tony Palumbo, who chairs the law enforcement council.
The project, when completed, will put in place one integrated and all-encompassing system that will combine records and data from all 11 law enforcement agencies and 15 fire departments in the county as well as the Anoka County Jail and 911 dispatch, Palumbo said.
According to Blaine Police Chief Chris Olson, who chairs the governance committee that has spearheaded implementation of the project, all those involved have done “a wonderful job collaborating together” to put in place a system that reduces inefficiencies and identifies the best system.
In all, 6,800 functionality requirements were identified for the new system, Olson said.
Work on the TriTech contract for computer aided dispatch and law enforcement records is well underway with all the hardware installed and the software now being installed, he said.
The new computer aided dispatch system is expected to go online in November this year and the law enforcement records system by March 2015, Olson said.
Under the new contracts, the fire records system is scheduled to be completed in the first quarter of 2015 and the jail upgrade by the end of 2015, he said.
The new fire records system will create a new standards for fire departments in the county, according to East Bethel Fire Chief Mark DuCharme. “It will be much more efficient,” DuCharme said.
It will provide firefighters with complete information when responding to an emergency, for example, the history of a building, including permits issued and inspections done, he said.
“The fire departments have worked extremely hard to come up with a program that is extremely workable,” DuCharme said.
The upgraded jail records will be fully integrated into the shared computer aided dispatch, law enforcement and fire records systems, according to Olson.
“It will increase efficiency at a variety of levels,” Olson said.
For example, the shared system will reduce the time a patrol officer has to spend at the jail doing reports when he drops off a prisoner, getting the officer back on the street much more quickly, he said.
The same is true for the detention deputies in the reports they have to do, Olson said.
“We have worked very hard to come up with a successful system,” he said. “It will serve Anoka County very well.”
The county had received authority from the Minnesota Legislature to bond up to $8 million for the project through a $1 million line item on the annual tax statement received by property taxpayers.
That first appeared on the property tax statement in 2013 and did so again this year, according to Cevin Petersen in an interview prior to his retirement as county division manager for finance and central services last week.
But the county board has decided not to bond for the capital costs of the project, Petersen said.
Instead, the $1 million line item for this project will appear on the 2015 property tax statement, but not after that, he said.
By then, it will have generated $3 million. The remainder of the project cost will come from two existing county budget sources – $2.5 million from the asset preservation fund and $2.5 million from the information technology department account, according to Petersen.
The county went back to the Legislature this past session to have the wording on the bonding authority legislation modified to include language that allows the county to use other means to pay for the project, not just bonding, Petersen said.
That change was approved by the Legislature and has been signed into law by Gov. Mark Dayton, he said.
The bonding and property tax line item authority remains in place until 2023, but the county board might be looking at bonding for a project to replace the 800 megahertz public safety radio system as soon as 2016, according to Petersen.
Maintenance costs for the law enforcement and fire department records systems will be shared by the counties and cities as part of their annual budgets. The formulas for operations costs for law enforcement and fire departments are not the same, however.
County Commissioner Scott Schulte, who serves on the project’s governance committee, praised the work of the joint law enforcement and fire protection councils, for the countless hours they have put into the project and for their ability to respond to meetings at very short notice.
“They have stayed on top of things and have been fully engaged,” Schulte said.
“We have a signature system that is state of the art, not just in the United States, but in the world as well.”
County Commissioner Jim Kordiak described the new shared system as “a remarkable platform,” which offers flexibility and efficiencies for many years to come.
“It fulfills a public safety need that is a priority for Anoka County,” he said.
According to Anoka County Board Chairperson Rhonda Sivarajah, this has been a team effort in which the county, cities, law enforcement and fire departments have come together “with the same vision and moved in the same direction.”
“It is a system that we can all be very proud of,” Sivarajah said.