Even though some Afton residents may wish to forget about the existence of the city’s controversial “Stealth Tower,” it’s not far from the minds of Afton City Council.
Afton City Council discussed maintenance costs of the telecommunication system with Jim Stanley, of the Lower St. Croix Valley Fire Department, during its April 17 meeting.
Afton’s “Stealth Tower” is one of 14 similar towers scattered across Washington County by the sheriff’s office as part of the 800 MHz radio system, which is used for public safety and emergency services communications.
The towers went live in March of 2008.
During last Tuesday’s meeting, Stanley informed City Council that there are discussions currently occurring between Washington County and the public safety department on ways to cut costs associated with the system.
Currently, the radios that use the 800 MHz system cost about $400 to use, thus totaling close to $11,000 a year.
The LSCVFD is requesting that Washington County fund the radios, rather than the LSCVFD, since the funds ultimately come out of the Washington County budget and property taxes anyway.
If the proposal moves forward, a line item totaling less than $5 would be included on residents’ property tax statements.
“We’re always looking for ways to save money,” Stanley said. “This would be a big step to get rid of the burden on police, public safety and fire. It would be nice to cut that $11,000 to use it where we need it.”
In order for Washington County to move forward with the line item, Washington County Commissioner Gary Kriesel is requesting that all cities show support for the proposal.
“He wants to make sure he has the cities backing it,” Stanley said.
Freeing up the $11,000 in maintenance and user costs would also help Washington County purchase more radios, Stanley said.
“It’s kind of a safety issue,” Stanley said. “It would be safer if we had more radios.”
Afton City Council members decided not to vote on the proposal during the April 17 meeting, saying they would like to see more information from the Washington County Sheriff’s Department first, including its budget, the city’s share of radio use and the total cost.
“We need to know how many more of these things can they start ticking off their budget and putting on as a line item?” Council Member Joe Richter said. “Why are they doing this now?”
Council Member Bill Palmquist said he would be in favor of supporting the line item proposal.
“We will get the benefit of better communication,” he said.
Afton City Council will discuss the 800 MHz maintenance costs again at its May meeting.Talk about it