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East Grand Forks eyes cell tower locations

After objections were heard from residents at the prospect of a cell tower moving into their neighborhood, the East Grand Forks City Council agreed Tuesday to study where the most receptive places to boosting reception in town are.

The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to request an independent radio frequency study to determine where cell towers are most needed in East Grand Forks. Verizon Wireless, which is seeking to build a new tower in the city, will pay for the study.

The East Grand Forks Planning Commission had approved placing the tower on the Valley Golf Course old clubhouse site on 21st Street Northwest. At a workshop meeting last week, several residents of the area opposed to the placement of the proposed 65-foot tower, which will be designed to look like a street light, near their homes.

City Administrator David Murphy acknowledged there could be concerns raised by residents no matter where the study finds tower placement to be best.

K-9 fundraiser approved

In a split vote, the City Council approved allowing the Police Department to raise money for a new addition to the force: a four-legged officer.

East Grand Forks Police Chief Mike Hedlund said the city has not had a K-9 unit since the mid-1990s and he believes the dog could be a positive addition to the force while acknowledging it was not a top priority and comes with expenses.

The department was seeking council approval to pay for some of those initial expenses, such as buying the dog and a new vehicle to carry it, with help from the public. Hedlund estimates those startup costs would total about $55,000, including $13,000 to train the dog and its handler and $35,000-$40,000 for a K-9 designated vehicle.

The K-9 officer would also require about $13,000 per year in annual costs.

Hedlund said he asked Crookston Police and Polk County Sheriff's Office leaders if they'd be interested in sharing training costs, as none of the departments currently has a dog, and both agencies declined.

Council member Mike Pokrzywinski argued a dog is not necessary for the police force.

"I think it would have a use, I just don't think East Grand Forks should shoulder the burden of it alone," Pokrzywinski said.

Council member Henry Tweten said the dog would be an important in helping to curb drug trafficking in the area.

"One of the things we must remember is we've got the entire landscape of northern Minnesota permeated with all kinds of drugs," Tweten said.

East Grand Forks Police do receive K-9 assistance from Grand Forks, but a dog is only available about half the time, Hedlund said.

Council member Marc DeMers said the city shouldn't be spending more when it is going through a tight budgeting process and said he doesn't like the idea of the city fundraising from the public to cover an expense.

The motion passed 4-3 with DeMers, Pokrzywinski and Clarence Vetter opposed.

Hedlund said the department will work on a mechanism to solicit donations for a K-9 program.