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Beltrami County Board OKs CodeRED warning system for Sheriff's Office

BEMIDJI – The Beltrami County Board on Tuesday unanimously approved the CodeRED Reverse 911 Emergency Notification System for the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office.

“This is a very exciting program,” Emergency Management Director Beryl Wernberg said in a presentation to the board. “You can use it to text, email, call. People can set up any device, and sign up as many devices as they wish to have.”

The one-year cost of CodeRED is $16,538, payable through 911 funds.

CodeRED is supplied by the Emergency Communications Network LLC. It was designed to enable local government officials to record, send and track personalized voice, email, text and social media messages to citizens and staff members. It uses mapping technology and patented delivery methods within a dedicated, triple-redundant network and is designed to be easy to use in high-pressure situations.

If the system had been implemented for the July 2 storm, “CodeRED would have hit within minutes,” Wernberg said.

Sheriff Phil Hodapp said, typically, public is notified of a situation after the news media is contact. But what happens if, for example, someone is fleeing law enforcement officers at 2 a.m. in a residential neighborhood?

Rather than calling people in the neighborhood individually, the CodeRED system can map out the area and send a message to all residents. When resolved, it can send a follow-up message.

“This is really a great advancement in technology that’s going to save a lot of time in dispatch,” Hodapp said, “and, more importantly, create better public safety for the citizens.”

Hubbard County has a similar system, but is switching to CodeRED to gain more features, he said, noting that during a fire near the Hubbard-Beltrami border, Hubbard County used its system to notify nearby residents. “It really worked slick.”

Sergeant promotion

The board approved by a 4-1 vote the promotion of a deputy to a sergeant position to head the Investigations Division.

The $8,257.60 in additional salary from the promotion will come from money raised by forfeitures. These funds are usually used to purchase equipment.

In the mid-1990s, the Investigation Division consisted of a sergeant and two investigators. An auto theft investigator was added via a state grant in the late 1990s.

In 2006, the sergeant transferred out of the division. A new investigator was assigned, and the chief deputy assumed supervision of the division. One investigator retired in 2010, reducing the division to three, one of whom transferred back to a patrol position this year. The Sheriff’s Office is in the process of filling that position through a promotion.

Hodapp proposed during a county board work session Tuesday to bring the Investigation Division back to four members, including a supervising sergeant, by transferring a deputy from the Civil Division and promoting the deputy to sergeant. The Records Division would assume data entry responsibility for the Civil Division.

This change would allow the Sheriff’s Office to step up the quality of its investigations of the county’s most serious crimes, Hodapp said.

“I’m just asking to get back to where we were prior to 2006,” he said.

Commissioner Jim Lucachick, who cast the lone dissenting vote, asked that the request be placed on the agenda for the regular meeting, which followed the work session.

“I think it should go into the next budgeting schedule,” Lucachick said during the regular meeting. “I just didn’t see the urgency.”

“I think it’s a very, very important thing,” Hodapp said. “It’s so important to be able to have a leader that knows about investigations but also is watching over investigations going on and ensuring everything is being done properly. … I’m not asking for a sergeant position. I’m telling you that I’m going to take one of my deputies and reassign him, and just ask the difference between a deputy and sergeant (salary). I’m even offering to find a way to pay for it.

“We’re in a situation where we really need to have more investigators and one of them be a supervisor.”

Commissioner Jack Frost said he felt it was important to introduce a sergeant who can benefit from the training offered by Gary Pederson, commander of investigations.

“He’s an extremely talented leader there,” Hodapp said after the meeting.

Chief Deputy Ernie Beitel said it’s important for the Investigation Division to have a leader.

“Middle management is what we need,” Beitel said.

Administrator discussion

Commissioners discussed setting up interviews with the three finalists for the position of county administrator.

Human Resources Director Linda Tran led the discussion. Interim Administrator Kay Mack, the county’s auditor-treasurer, is one of the candidates, along with Thomas Johnson, a public works director in Colorado, and former Albertville city administrator Larry Kruse.

The new administrator would replace Tony Murphy, who held the position for more than 10 years before he resigned last spring.

It was decided that Tran would send emails to the commissioners, the candidates and David Unmacht from Springsted Inc., hired to help with the search process, to determine a date that would work.

“It would be my preference that all of us could be in place,” Commissioner Joe Vene said.

Commissioner Richard Anderson said that since department chairs will visit with candidates, he would like the commissioners to get feedback from them.

Laurie Swenson
Laurie Swenson is a reporter/copy editor for the Bemidji Pioneer. She has been with the Pioneer since 2004.