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New phone plan approved for PR Police

Switching from Verizon to FirstNet allows each officer to have a cellphone and reduces office land lines by half.

The Park Rapids City Council voted Sept. 24 to allow the police department to switch its cell phone plan from Verizon to FirstNet, a provider that uses the AT&T cellular network.

Police Chief Jeff Appel said FirstNet has a federal contract to provide cellular service for emergency personnel, and the Hubbard County Sheriff’s Office has also made the switch.

“It’s a good program for first responders,” said Appel. “It gives priority on cell towers in emergencies for first responders. They have push-to-talk options, various options that make us safer with what we do at work.”

Appel said he and city staff evaluated the police department’s current phone system, under which each officer has a landline phone in the office. With the switch-over, Appel said, three new cell phones will be added and six of the police department’s 13 current land lines will be deleted. Also to be eliminated is a Jetpack mobile phone.

“At the current moment, we are three cellphones short of having a cellphone for every officer,” he said. “There’s many reasons why I would prefer that every officer have a cellphone. At times, personal phones are used, which can open up personal phones to a court process, to be brought into court, and other reasons.”

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At current rates, with the landlines being deleted and the cell phones added, the new phone system will cost an additional $406 per year.

As a financial incentive to make the switch, Appel said the provider is offering to cancel that fee for the first six years of service. So, the switch would not add anything to the budget for the upcoming year.

In his written summary of the request, Appel added that FirstNet offered a September special, allowing the department to use Port-In and Smartphone credits to purchase the iPhone Xr for $50 and to see a savings of $2,444 for the first year.

The police chief’s, investigator’s and sergeant’s offices will still use landlines to record complaints and investigations, Appel wrote.

Council member Erika Randall moved to approve the switch, and the motion passed without dissent.

In consent items and general business, the city council:

  • Approved the first reading of an ordinance amendment affecting the fee schedule for animal licenses. In addition to animal tags priced at $5 per year neutered/spayed or $10 non-neutered/spayed, there is a $150 per appeal fee for dangerous dog appeal hearings.

  • Approved the low quote of $8,350 from Hass Geosystems, Inc. to replace the boiler in the Park Rapids Avionics building at the airport, to be paid for by the tenant and repaid through a rent reduction agreement with Tom Hass/Park Rapids Avionics. A competing quote was received from RMS Construction.

  • Approved the low quote of $8,111 from MVI to repair a wastewater treatment irrigator pump. A competing quote was received from Steven M. Traut Wells, Inc.

  • Approved the low quote of $1,575 from Haataja Contracting to repair roof leaks around the HVAC unit over the reception area at city hall. A competing quote was received from Herzog Roofing.

  • Approved repairs costing $1,616 by L.A. Rossman for a leaking AV gas fueling hose at the municipal airport.

  • Appointed Ann Niedzielski to the Park Rapids Library Board.

  • Appointed Curt Eischens as a public works utility maintenance worker.

  • Appointed Jacob Helfrich as a volunteer firefighter with the Park Rapids Fire Department.

  • Authorized staff to advertise and interview for a vacant public works street maintenance worker position.

  • Approved payables totaling $17,329 and prepaids totaling $131,456.

The next city council meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 8 at city hall.

Related Topics: GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at rfish@parkrapidsenterprise.com or 218-252-3053.
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