Fire departments awarded $264K for new radio equipment

Cambridge City Council
The city of Cambridge received some exciting news during its council meeting Monday, Feb. 7. Cambridge Fire Chief Sean Okerlund informed the council the Cambridge
Fire Department was awarded a $264,641 grant from the Federal Emergency
Management Agency to help purchase 800 mega hertz radio equipment for
the Cambridge, Braham and Dalbo fire departments.

Rachel Kytonen
rachel.kytonen@ecm-inc.com

The city of Cambridge received some exciting news during its council meeting Monday, Feb. 7.
Cambridge Fire Chief Sean Okerlund informed the council the Cambridge Fire Department was awarded a $264,641 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help purchase 800 mega hertz radio equipment for the Cambridge, Braham and Dalbo fire departments.

Okerlund said he will be getting together with the other fire chiefs to discuss the grant award further and the purchases.

The grant was put together by the fire chiefs of each department, and took between 30 to 40 hours of work. Isanti County is scheduled to make the switch to the 800 mega hertz radio system in May.

The ARMER system is an 800 mega hertz digital radio system that would allow for free-flowing communication among all first responders, state patrol, Allina and other law enforcement.

There is a 10 percent local match required by the three fire departments. Cambridge Finance Director Caroline Moe said Cambridge’s match will be $13,005 and Dalbo and Braham’s match will be $12,965.

As a result of the grant award, Moe said $75,000 will be taken out of the Cambridge Police Department fund that had been designated for the 800 mega hertz radio system, and presented three resolutions relating to budget amendments in the general fund and capital project funds.

One issue that triggered discussion was spending $25,000 out of the $75,000 for outfitting a Cambridge Emergency Operations Center (EOC) with a smart board, laptops, telephone head-sets, cabinets, and other items.

After discussion, by a 4-1 vote with Council Member Bob Shogren voting against, the council approved the three different budget amendment resolutions.

“I think the EOC the Isanti County Government Center has is very well equipped, and I think the $25,000 would be better spent somewhere else,” Shogren noted. “I think it would be a duplication of services for the city to also have an EOC. If there is an emergency, we’d be in the thick of it anyway.”

City Administrator Lynda Woulfe said the city does have an agreement with Isanti County to use their EOC at no cost if it’s available.

Council Member Chris Caulk said he did support Cambridge having its own EOC.

“I don’t want to be scrambling when we lose half our town,” Caulk said. “At times, I think it’s okay to have duplication of services, and I think this is one of those times.”

Shogren said the only reason he voted against the three resolutions was because he felt the council should not commit to spending the $25,000 right away, and to discuss the issue further. He said otherwise he was fine with everything else presented in the budget amendments.

In other fire department news, Okerlund said over 450 people were served during the fire department’s annual spaghetti dinner and gun raffle fundraiser held Feb. 5. Okerlund said the fundraiser raised around $20,000; which was $6,000 more than last year.

“Thank you for your efforts on this, and we know you had a ton of good help,” said Cambridge Mayor Marlys Palmer. “We should also thank all the citizens of Cambridge who came out and supported this. It does take an entire village to make these events more popular.”

Winter parking concerns
Herman and Lois Oestrich, owner of Herman’s Bakery, located at 130 S. Main St., approached the council over winter parking concerns.

The city of Cambridge sent a letter to Herman’s Bakery dated Jan. 31, explaining there have been issues with snowplowing due to her employees’ cars parking in the Adams Street parking lot behind the bakery.

The city said this has been a challenge for the public works department because they have come to plow the parking lot and there have been cars parked in it.

The city of Cambridge currently has winter parking restrictions in effect that doesn’t allow parking on any city street between the hours of 2 a.m. to 7 a.m. from November through March 30.

Lois said since she and her husband took over the bakery 30 years ago, winter parking issues have only come up three times—once every 10 years.

She explained her bakery is a 24-hour operation, and her bakers arrive between 2:30 and 3 a.m., and leave around 6 a.m.

She said when her bakers have tried parking in the commuter lot just south of the Cambridge American Legion by the railroad tracks, they have been harassed by people who have been drinking, and have had their cars vandalized.

Lois explained in the past, they have received a phone call or a city staff person would go to their bakery door and ask them to move their vehicles when the lot needed to be plowed.

Shogren noted the city has limited staff, and it takes time to individually notify the business. He said the employees should plan ahead, and realize if there is more than two inches of snow on the ground, they should park their cars elsewhere.

After discussion, the council approved a motion to have the police department notify Herman’s Bakery when the city is going to be doing its snow plowing. The motion also stated the agreement is in place for the rest of this winter season only, and a new system will need to be worked out next year.

Marketing studies approved
During the Cambridge Economic Development Authority meeting, the EDA approved two marketing studies for retail and hotels.

The EDA approved a professional services contract with the McComb Group for $38,270 to conduct an updated retail market analysis and prepare a restaurant market analysis of the city of Cambridge.

Economic Development Director Stan Gustafson explained the last McComb study was completed in 2005.

He said with the change in market conditions, it’s time to have the study updated to determine what areas of retail are still needed now and in the future. The restaurant demand analysis will be to determine future market demand in the city.

Retail areas in Cambridge will be evaluated to identify strengths and weaknesses for retail, food services, services and service office use.

Once the report is completed, it will determine what retail outfits the city needs to focus its marketing efforts on to entice businesses to come to Cambridge.

The EDA also approved hiring Riley Real Estate, Inc. for a city-wide hotel market study for $7,900.

The study would be concerned with the determination and potential future demand for hotel accommodations in the city; assessment of existing and potential future competitive supply; and the share of the market that could be reasonably be attained by a proposed project.

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