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EGF holds off on new records system before budget discussion

The East Grand Forks City Council will hold off on spending $84,000 to purchase a new records management system for the Police Department until the city's 2017 budget takes shape.

The East Grand Forks City Council will hold off on spending $84,000 to purchase a new records management system for the Police Department until the city's 2017 budget takes shape.

Most council members voiced their support for the new system, but said they'd like to take a look at the cost in the context of the overall city budget.

"I don't believe that expenditures like this should take place outside of the budget process primarily because while this seems like a worthwhile expenditure ... I don't like to make that type of decision outside the framework of relationships-how it reflects on the levy," council member Marc DeMers said. "If we just levied out $84,000, that's a 2 percent increase to the levy right there."

The department is seeking a new records management and computer-aided dispatch system after experiencing years of dissatisfaction with its current system and provider. East Grand Forks plans to share the cost of acquiring the system from Zuercher Technology with Polk County Sheriff's Office and the Crookston Police Department.

Council members opted to table the request until they begin talking about the city's 2017 budget but wanted to make it clear to Polk County and Crookston that there was support for the purchase.

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Estimates put Polk County's share of the cost at $220,000 while Crookston's portion is estimated around $80,000. The Polk County Commission and Crookston City Council are expected to discuss their respective requests at meetings in the coming weeks.

Police Chief Mike Hedlund said Tuesday he could wait for the purchase to be addressed in the city budget process, which is expected to get underway soon.

All cities in Polk County have to approve a preliminary budget and forward it to the county auditor's office by Sept. 15. Those budgets can be decreased but not increased after that deadline.

The Police Department's request came forward now because Zuercher needed some lead time if the purchase is approved, Hedlund said, meaning it would likely be several months into 2017 before the new system is implemented. He added he also had worried the item could be overlooked during the budget process.

"This is a high priority," Hedlund said. "There are other items that are priorities, but I truly feel this is essential."

In addition to the initial cost, the Zuercher system would have an annual maintenance cost of $11,600 for the department's second year of use. At a council work session last week, Hedlund said the additional benefits of the new system would justify those higher costs.

Included features would be automatic vehicle location for squad cars, a digital evidence tracking system that would replace the department's current pen-and-paper method, the ability to compile reports of crime statistics and technical support available all hours of the day.

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