WILLMAR, Minn. -- A new regional radio "logger" system that will record law enforcement and other emergency radio traffic and 911 calls in the 10-county area will be housed at the Kandiyohi County dispatch center in Willmar and the Meeker County Sheriff's Office in Litchfield.
The system is another step in regional cooperation that helps many different agencies improve services at a reduced cost, said Kandiyohi County Sheriff Dan Hartog.
"It's another example of how counties and city of St. Cloud can work together for one main goal," said Hartog.
The regional system for logging data -- from phone calls to radio chatter -- will be used by Kandiyohi, Meeker, Big Stone, Douglas, Grant, Mille Lacs, Otter Tail, Pope, Stevens and Wright counties and the city of St. Cloud.
The regional collaborative is getting the attention of other agencies, including Hennepin County, which is talking to local organizers about how to implement a centralized logging system.
"We're setting the example statewide," said Micah Myers, the information technology director for the city of St. Cloud who headed up the project as part of the Regional Radio Advisory Committee. "It's bigger than people realize."
That regional committee was formed when the new ARMER radio emergency system was put online in 2009 in the region, said Hartog, referring to the state's shared public safety radio system, Allied Radio Matrix for Emergency Response.
Eight other counties in the region opted not to participate in the centralized logging system and will maintain their own systems, said Hartog.
The entire system of equipment and software for the centralized logger will cost about $1 million, with about $750,000 of the cost paid for with a variety of federal and state grants, said Myers.
The equipment will be installed this spring in Willmar and Litchfield and provide vital redundancy for data and a significant savings to participating agencies.
The current outdated logging system costs Kandiyohi County about $17,000 a year in maintenance fees. The new system will cost the county about half that amount and is expected to include improved service and fewer operational issues than the existing recording equipment.
Because the equipment will be housed in Willmar and Litchfield, those two counties will not have to pay the maintenance fees the first year.
Hartog said Kandiyohi County was chosen to house the equipment because the county building is a "hard structure" that is constructed to withstand a tornado.
Being the host community will involve staff time from county technology staff, but Hartog said it should not cost the county anything.
Myers said part of the cost of the project includes basic recorders that log administrative phone calls and 911 calls locally. That logged information, along with radio chatter from different agencies that play out while responding to emergencies, will be forwarded to the central repositories in Willmar and Litchfield.
Myers said storing that data at safe locations can be important for law enforcement and attorneys in legal cases. He said the centralized logger stores information that can be used to rebuild a timeline of agency responses to emergencies that start with a 911 call.
"There's a lot of information that goes on the background," said Myers. Having that information helps document agency responses and can be useful evidence if there are cases that allege misconduct or inappropriate behavior, he said.
The different agencies will be able to access their own data remotely and will not have to physically be in Willmar or Litchfield to retrieve stored information. The agencies will not be able to access another agency's information.
Besides the maintenance fees, each county will also be putting money toward a fund each year to purchase replacement equipment. Myers said the centralized logger has about a seven-year life cycle.