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Committee OKs putting tracking devices in county vehicles

Devices would let county see where vehicles are located, sheriff squads and patrol trucks already tracked

Taylor County will begin tracking most county-owned vehicles under a plan supported by members of the county’s finance and personnel committee on March 14.

Committee members approved contracting with a firm to install GPS tracking devices on 15 county-owned vehicles. The devices fit on the vehicle’s diagnostic ports and will record things such as location and time. According to clerk Andria Farrand, the devices are free, but the cost is $20 per asset being tracked. The change would create an additional $300 per month fee ($3,600 per year) expense going forward with the cost to be pushed back onto the vehicle maintenance line items in each department budget.

Currently the county has GPS tracking capabilities as part of the software and hardware used by the sheriff’s department as well as on the patrol trucks in the highway department. In the case of the highway department, it also tracks other things such as sand and salt usage and road conditions.

The idea of installing the tracking devices came out of the forestry committee, with the stated purpose being to improve safety for forestry personnel working in remote sections of the county forest and the potential need to get assistance to them if there was an issue.

Beyond safety concerns, the tracking devices would show if a county vehicle was not where it was supposed to be.

Committee member Rollie Thums said there were also concerns regarding the human services staff who often are called out in the middle of the night for crisis calls. “We don’t know where they really are,” he said.

Committee member Lynn Rosemeyer suggested running the idea by the sheriff for if they should also be including sheriff’s vehicles that are not currently tracked by the current system such as the sheriff’s vehicle and those used by detectives.

In the end, the committee voted unanimously to go with the GPS tracking units.

Powerline grant requests

The bulk of last week’s meeting was taken up with review of the the semiannual requests for power line impact fee funds. Groups may submit requests at the March and September finance and personnel meetings. The committee reviews the requests and makes recommendations as to how much should be given, if anything, and passes it to the full county board for final action at the April and October county board sessions. Committee members reviewed six funding requests at last week’s meeting with their recommendations going to the April board meeting.

Billy Hartwig from the Medford Area Chamber of Commerce and city coordinator Joe Harris presented a request for $29,560 for the purchase of synthetic ice to be placed under the newly built RCU Pavilion on Whelen St. This would allow skating and other activities without being weather dependent. A motion to fund the full request failed on a 2-3 vote with Chuck Zenner and Lynn Rosemeyer in support. A second motion to give $5,000 to the project passed on a 4-1 vote with Rosemeyer opposed.

Representatives from Sandbox Daycare requested $10,000 for playground improvements at the center specifically for the toddler area. The total cost of the project is just over $73,000 for the equipment and the solid base similar to the accessible one installed in the city park. The intent is to replace the sand and rubber chips on the existing base. It was noted that these materials often end up in the mouths of the children. Committee members approved recommending $10,000 for the project.

Representatives from the Jump River Community Center requested $7,500 to make upgrades to the center including the replacement of old ceiling tiles and to the flooring. The facility serves as the nutrition site for that region. The main structure and exterior is maintained by the town of Jump River while the center runs the inside and does maintenance and improvements. The center was last remodeled in 1985. Committee members approved the $7,500 request.

Holway Sluggers Ball Club requested funds for ongoing field improvements to the youth baseball and softball facility. Projects total $47,278. Representatives noted the programs are growing in size and number and that they accept all children to participate. “We meet them where they are,” said Amber Larson of the 10 special needs children currently in the programs. Committee members recommended giving $25,000 to the organization with Rosemeyer opposed saying she felt it should be lower.

Spirit Lake Association requested funds to install a new dock at the boat launches on Spirit Lake. They requested $5,000 which will cover about half the cost of the $10,200 dock. It was noted that while Spirit Lake is divided between Taylor and Price counties the docks are in Taylor County. Committee members recommended giving $5,000 to the project.

A request from the Taylor County Fair to use power line funds to replace light poles at the grandstands drew some discussion and disagreement about where the funds for the project should come from.

According to Tim Hobl, fair board vice president, the existing poles were put up in 1980 and he described them as being in “pretty rough shape” with concerns about their continued safety.

The poles, like all other structures at the fairgrounds are owned by Taylor County and are used for the fair as well as for other rentals and events at the fairgrounds. Hobl estimated the cost of the lights and poles to be about $75,000.

He said while they would be able to provide some donations as far as labor, it is far beyond the ability of the fair to pay for that sort of improvement.

Zenner questioned if it should be a power line expense or something that the county should be budgeting for each year as part of maintenance.

“It is a lot of money,” said committee member Jim Gebauer.

Catherine Lemke, who is the county board representative to the fair board, asked if there was anyway to do part of it now.

“It is something that if you start it, it is hard to do halfway,” Hobl said. However he was quick to note that anything would be appreciated.

“I am kind of leaning that it should go to the budget,” Thums said.

Committee members recommended giving $20,000 toward the replacement of the light poles at the grandstand. Lemke said there needed to be a plan on how to handle the rest of the cost. It was suggested it be put on the agenda for the buildings and grounds committee.

“$20,000 will get the poles to Medford, but won’t get them up,” she said. She said that no matter what was discussed she expected it to come back to the power line money.

In other business committee members:

 Approved moving one of the two vehicles currently in use as a courtesy vehicle for pilots flying into the Taylor County Airport to replace a human services vehicle that was totaled in a car crash last year. This will leave one courtesy vehicle at the airport. Both vehicles are former law enforcement vehicles that were kept by the county rather than being sold at auction.

 Received the 2022 audit report. The report came back with giving the county a clean bill of financial health, however, the auditor did note that the county held most of its reserves in designated accounts for specific purposes and suggested that the bulk of it should be in undesignated reserves. He suggested they look at reducing the amount of the assigned reserves.