Groundbreaking in Plymouth expected in January or February
BY KATY ZILLMER
Hennepin County has selected a builder to complete a new 911 Emergency Communications Facility with the capacity for all of the sheriff’s office communication divisions and widespread dispatch services.
The Board of Commissioners approved a $21.6 million contract for Stahl Construction to build the communications center near the Adult Corrections Facility, 1145 Shenandoah Lane in Plymouth, at its Dec. 11 meeting.
“The partnership in moving this forward over the last several years has been good. We’re looking forward to this new facility,” Stanek said during the meeting.
The current sheriff’s office communications center is located in Golden Valley and serves 36 communities throughout Hennepin County with 911 and emergency communications, according to Hennepin County spokeswoman Lisa Kiava.
The center in Golden Valley, 9300 Naper St., is one of the largest consolidated dispatch facilities in the Upper Midwest.
However the aging facility, built in 1948, does not have the space to accommodate new communications technologies and protect the investment in equipment that is there, according to Kiava.
Features of the new communications center, with a total projected budget of $33.7 million, include 21 dispatch consoles, with a maximum capacity for 30 consoles, a 9,500-square-foot radio installation and electronic mobile equipment storage garage.
There is also an existing communications tower at the corrections facility site for dispatch use.
Ten percent of the budget is a contingency for extra costs associated with the project that would remain in the county coffers if not used, Stanek said.
There may be some equipment upgrades as well, but for the most part it will all be moved from Golden Valley to Plymouth, Stanek said.
The Golden Valley center is planned to stay in operation during the transition of services to Plymouth in 2014, Stanek added. There is also a communications tower at the Golden Valley site that will remain in operation and it is also the hub of Minnesota’s 800 MHz radio systems, Stanek said.
Hennepin County was the first in the state to transition to the 800 MHz systems at the Golden Valley center, he said. The 800 MHz system provides a common frequency for different agencies in the county to use for communication.
“We will at some point have to transition that equipment out to Plymouth … but it could be five, 10 or 15 years,” he said.
Golden Valley signs on
Another development in the new communications center project is the addition of Golden Valley’s dispatch services there in late 2014.
The county board approved an amended resolution 4-3, proposed by Fourth District Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, to include services to Golden Valley at its Dec. 11 meeting.
Golden Valley currently has dispatch services through the city of Edina.
Second District Commissioner Linda Higgins proposed the original resolution, which stated Golden Valley’s new dispatch services would start on Jan. 1, 2014.
That would mean the services for Golden Valley would be at the current facility, which prompted a discussion by the board about the capacity for additional calls there.
McLaughlin said he did not want to tax the current services provided by the sheriff’s office through adding Golden Valley’s dispatch to the existing facility.
“My concern here is that we should err again on the side of caution and not compromise services,” McLaughlin said.
Higgins and commissioners Gail Dorfman and Jeff Johnson voted against the amended date. Commissioners Mike Opat, Jan Callison, Randy Johnson and McLaughlin supported the change.
The overall resolution to provide dispatch services to the city of Golden Valley outlining the requirements of the transfer, however, was unanimously approved by the board.
The resolution states Golden Valley will have to terminate its dispatch contract with the city of Edina one year before the start of services in Plymouth.
The Jan. 1, 2014, date in the original resolution would have allowed both cities to have a more exact plan for the contract termination, according to Golden Valley Mayor Shep Harris.
“It is uncertainty for us and leaves Edina on the hook in budget planning,” Harris said during the county board meeting.
But, Harris added, both the cities did know the contract for services was in place on a temporary basis.
Golden Valley originally requested dispatch service through Hennepin County in 2010, but the city’s request was denied.
The sheriff’s office had a moratorium to prevent any dispatch service additions in place at that time.
The sheriff’s office opened up its dispatch services to 10 cities, including Golden Valley, in August 2004 and then enacted the moratorium for at least eight years for any that did not sign on.
Stanek said there are 11 dispatch centers in Hennepin County, outside of the sheriff’s office communications center.
The Metropolitan Airport Commission, including dispatch services for the Metro Airport Police and Fire, and the Metro Transit police each operate one center over several counties, Stanek said.
Cities that continue to have their own independent dispatch centers include Richfield, Bloomington, Eden Prairie, Edina and St. Louis Park, he said.
In addition to Golden Valley, the city of Hopkins also recently received approval for dispatch services at the new communications center.
Residential or business property taxes in municipalities are designated for county dispatch services, Stanek said.
“One of the main drivers (for cities) is the enormous cost savings they gain,” he said.
There is a one-time cost for cities to convert radio systems in police and fire vehicles to be compatible with the county’s, Stanek said. “Their computers have to be able to talk to the computers we have.”
The fee for Golden Valley and Hopkins is approximately $54,000 to pay over two years, Stanek said.
McLaughlin’s amended resolution approved by the county board states financial arrangements for Golden Valley’s switch to the new center should be determined three months before that date in 2014.
The groundbreaking for the new communications center will be in January or February, Stanek said.
“This project is essential to public safety,” he said. “We must have a facility that ensures uninterrupted service for 911 calls, radio dispatch, and technical services.”