By Roz Kohls
Meeker County Board of Commissioners entered a purchase agreement Tuesday for a site for an emergency response and law enforcement radio tower in Greenleaf Township.
The proposed radio tower will replace the Beckville tower a mile away, which is on its last legs. The Beckville tower, which is the main communication tower for the Dassel area, is dirty, hot in the summer, has no backup generator, and no parts available for repair, according to Meeker County Chief Deputy Jeff Norlin.
The proposed site, southwest of Darwin, is an acre of land in the middle of a farm field owned by John Lekander. Lekander will sell the site for $55,000 if the proposal is approved. The site must first be approved by several agencies. A nearby property owner has a private, but licensed, airstrip, for example, so the proposal needs to be approved by the federal aviation administration.
Also, the site must be approved by MnDOT, and for wetland delineation, according to County Administrator Paul Virnig.
Virnig and the county sheriff’s office have looked for the past eight months for an appropriate site for the new three-legged tower and support building. The site needs to have a relatively high elevation and be flat at the top. The proposed site has an elevation of 1,206 feet. The site also needs to be in the southern half of the county so the signal can reach Dassel.
The county considered upgrading the tower at the Law Enforcement Center in Litchfield, but the Litchfield water tower would block the signal to Cosmos.
Virnig and the county sheriff’s office found a few other sites that would work, but Lekander was the only property owner willing to sell. Many farmers don’t want a tower on their land, even if it takes up only an acre or two, because it must be 10 feet plus the height of the tower from the nearest road’s right of way.
This means farmers must plant their crops around it. It is also why the grade of the service road to the tower must be only a few inches high so a tractor or farm implement can easily pass over it.
The county will partner with the state in the project, so the state will install the tower and support building. If the county had delayed, it could still link up with the state’s system using the state’s proposed tower in Eden Valley, but the county would still have to build a second tower.
In other law enforcement business, the county agreed with the State Department of Corrections to house prisoners for $55 a day until June 30, 2009. Currently, the county has 47 prisoners in jail, half of those from Meeker County, said County Sheriff Mike Hirman.
Also, Randy Nelson of the Prairie Country Resource, Conservation and Development Council, reported the council assists rural fire departments with planning and installation of dry hydrants. He said the Dassel Fire Department installed a dry hydrant for Lake Erie in 2007. Kingston also had dry well equipment installed recently.
Odds and ends
In other business, the county board:
• heard an annual report from Gail Sater of the Minnesota Counties Insurance Trust. She said Meeker County’s shared in the success of the 2007 MCIT dividend, $56,000 for workers’ compensation and $85,600 for property and liability.
• approved to move ahead with planning for the Litchfield Opera House with Prairie Country’s assistance.
• granted conditional use permits to Michael and Bridget Klein of Eden Valley for a barn and portable buildings, and Dawn Weyrauch of Litchfield for a commercial green house, and an interim use permit to Zachary Schultz of Grove City to move in a new mobile home on the same property as an old mobile home.