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Park Rapids constituents relay their concerns to Franken staff

Broadband and cell phone coverage, along with health care were some of the top concerns Park Rapids area constituents want Sen. Al Franken to work on.

As part of a tour around Minnesota, two of Franken's staff members stopped in Park Rapids Wednesday afternoon to hear from people in the area.

State Rep. Brita Sailer, DFL-Park Rapids attended the meeting and said broadband coverage is a huge issue in this area.

"There are too many areas that are the last mile and if it doesn't meet their economic plan, they won't go there," Sailer said.

It's an economic issue because some people won't buy property if they can't have broadband service like they can get elsewhere, she said.

"This is a big, big deal. It's public safety; it's economic development; it's making sure we're not left behind," she said.

Hubbard County Sheriff Frank Homer said that beyond broadband coverage, cell phone and radio coverage is a concern for law enforcement. The state is talking about going to a new system, he said.

"A lot of us in law enforcement are having problems with communication via the cell phone," Homer said.

At some point, the department would like to streamline communication so everyone has cell phones rather than squad radios and pagers. The problem is coverage.

"We could be on a search and rescue mission in the middle of Potato Lake and have no coverage," Homer said.

A federal mandate will require emergency radio systems to be converted to narrow band digital by the end of 2012, Homer said. The state has come out with an 800 Mhz radio system. It will provide better coverage, he said.

Homer said he would like to have everyone work together. When the new radio system is installed, he would like cell phone operators to be on board to install towers at the same time.

He is also concerned that although the new radio system is a federal mandate, he will have to go to the county for money.

Several citizens want some sort of health care reform to take place.

Florence Hedeen, of Park Rapids said that there are too many uninsured people in this country. She wants something to be changed soon.

Norman Leistikow said the Medicare system works well and he would like to see health care reform that could work as well as Medicare.

Citizens in the Park Rapids area also brought up the economic stimulus money and wondered when anyone in this area would see any of the money. The environment was also a concern raised by Park Rapids area constituents.

Charlie Poster, one of Franken's field representatives, said health care has been the top issue people are bringing up in cities across the state.

Poster said Franken's staff will continue to gather information for the senator. Eventually, an office will be set up in the metro area along with some offices in outstate Minnesota.