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County delays rural signage until spring

WORTHINGTON — Emergency 911 signage for all rural addresses in Nobles County will be delayed until next spring and will now come at an added cost.

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Nobles County commissioners decided during their Tuesday meeting to include street names on all individual signs, resulting in a price increase from $35 to $37 per sign to $41 to $43 per sign. With a per-post cost of $16, it brings the total cost up to roughly $60 per location.

Nobles County Public Works Director Stephen Schnieder said the increased cost to include the street names is approximately $15,000.

“To add the street name on the bottom of the sign, I think that’s beneficial,” Schnieder said, adding that other counties that included just the house number on rural signs wish they would have included the street names. I think it’s worth the extra investment. These signs will last about 15 years.”

“I have some concern,” Commissioner Marv Zylstra responded. “We passed the motion back in March to go with the 911 signs. The board understood at the time that they were going to be just the numbers and would be up by fall.”

Zylstra said he wanted the signage up.

“Here we are in November and we haven’t ordered them,” he said.

Schnieder said he delayed ordering the signs because he needed direction from the county on whether to include the street names.

While initial comments from Zylstra were to not include the street names, Nobles County Sheriff Kent Wilkening said there is a definite advantage to including them on each sign.

“This is more than fire, EMS and law enforcement — this is about the person that comes into the county that runs in the ditch and says, ‘I’m at 17321, but I don’t know what street I’m on,’” Wilkening explained.

Nobles County Emergency Management Director Joyce Jacobs also offered her support for signs with street names included. She explained the project was pushed back, in part, because of the assistance the public works provided during the April ice storm.

“The ice storm put all of us a little behind schedule this year,” she said. “Steve’s department was at the heart of making sure we got through all that. We’re as anxious as everyone else to get those signs up.”

Commissioner Don Linssen supported the idea to include the street names on the signs.

“I think you’re taking a step backward if you don’t put the street names on there,” he said.

The board approved the purchase of signs with street names and numbers on Tuesday, and Schnieder said he would compile information to get the project out for bids. He said the signs could be manufactured this winter, with installation to begin next spring.

In other business Tuesday, the board discussed the 2014 budget for Nobles County Emergency Management — specifically a request to update the Farmer’s Room in the lower level of the Government Center to better serve as a training room and Emergency Operations Center (EOC).

Jacobs said the lack of technology in the room is a “huge issue.” She stated that during a recent Region 5 Emergency Management meeting, there were problems relating to a lack of plug-ins and wireless Internet and an inability to do phone conferencing.

“When we have people coming to our facilities, that (technology) is almost a given,” Jacobs said. “We’re spending a lot of staff time hooking together pieces of equipment. We really need to have something in place and ready to roll.”

By piecing technology together, Jacobs said temporary cords and power strips can create safety hazards — especially if an EOC has to set up in the room.

Jacobs sought quotes from a couple of companies regarding the type of technology and the cost for installation, but cautioned commissioners that these weren’t “apples-to-apples” quotes, but merely lists of what could be done to improve the space for trainings.

Commissioner Gene Metz asked about collaborations, and if the upgrades could be prioritized so the county wouldn’t have such a large expense at one time.

Jacobs said she was open to opportunities, and that the work could be spread out over a few years.

“It isn’t something that we have to do, hook, line and sinker — the whole project at once,” Jacobs replied. “But, we want to make sure the infrastructure is there to add on pieces. Certainly, we need a lot more research.”

Jacobs suggested a committee be formed to discuss the needed technology to make the room more conducive for trainings.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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