Armed guards fail to alleviate Wright County security concerns

April 21, 2008

By Ivan Raconteur
Staff Writer

Despite the implementation of a new security plan that requires all visitors to pass through metal detectors staffed by armed guards, some Wright County government center employees still don’t feel safe.

Auditor/Treasurer Bob Hiivala told the county board Tuesday that members of his department who staff the main switchboard are concerned about safety.

When asked about the nature of the concern, Hiivala said employees are concerned that members of the public could potentially reach around the Plexiglas shield in front of the reception desk and “get at” the employee who is monitoring the phones.

Commissioner Pat Sawatzke was incredulous.

“There are four people with guns within 40 feet of that person. If that’s not the safest person in Wright County, I don’t know who is,” Sawatzke said.

Earlier this year, Sawatzke was the lone dissenting commissioner who opposed the recent change that requires any visitor to the Wright County government center to pass through security checkpoints.

Hiivala also said employees have reported that noise levels created by the new security measures make it difficult for the operator to hear incoming calls.

In a written request for board action, Hiivala stated that there have been several incidents at the desk where staff members have felt threatened, and he recommended construction of an enclosed reception area.

The board directed Hiivala to forward the concerns to the building committee.

Noxious weed update

Kerry Saxton of the Wright County Water and Soil Conservation District gave the board an update on a proposed plan to combat noxious weeds including buckthorn and wild parsnip.

The plan included formation of a cooperative board to address the weed problem.

The board previously approved $10,000 in matching funds to help secure a $70,000 weed grant from the Board of Soil and Water Resources (BWSR). The Soil and Water Conservation District had also put up $10,000 to help secure the grant.

Saxton said Wright County’s application had been ranked ninth out of 22 applications received, and the BWSR had offered $25,000 to fund the project.

He asked the board if it still wished to move ahead and include $10,000 in county funds in view of the reduced grant amount.

Saxton said the project would need to be scaled down in view of the reduced funding.

“I think we can still do a credible job with it,” he commented.

The board authorized Saxton to move forward with the program.

Odds and ends

In other business, the board:

• heard from Highway Engineer Wayne Fingalson that the technical corrections bill has been revived in the senate, and if approved, this could provide funding for needed projects in Wright County.

• accepted a low bid of $67,438 from Hunerberg Construction of Maple Grove for administration department remodeling, contingent on the contractor meeting with Purchasing Agent Craig Hayes to be sure the contractor understands the scope of the project. Hayes had expressed concern that the amount bid for labor was significantly lower than some of the other three bids that were received.

“He did come to the pre-bid conference, but it just doesn’t look right,” Hayes said.

• approved a resolution proclaiming May 4-10 correctional officer’s week in Wright County.

• approved overtime for employees to work extra hours to staff the free television collection Tuesday, April 22 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The recycling site will be open extra hours for the event in observance of Earth Day.

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