By Susan Van Cleaf & Sean Miner
For The Pioneer
The West Hennepin Public Safety Department and the cities of Independence and Maple Plain are inviting residents and business people to sign up for the CodeRED high speed community and emergency notification system.
Public Safety Director Gary Kroells demonstrated the system to the Independence City Council on March 22, with Councilwoman Linda Betts acting as a guinea pig. Betts signed up for the service and specified whether she wanted to receive notifications by phone, text message, cell phone and/or e-mail.
Then Kroells sent out a test message. In less than a minute, both Betts and Independence Administrative Assistant Beth Horner were listening to his voice on their cell phones.
Kroells explained that CodeRED is a system that can get information to anyone who is interested in happenings that would affect a specific address in Maple Plain or Independence.
“It’s a great thing, one for the emergency management standpoint, and secondly, for general information,” said Maple Plain City Administrator Tessia Melvin.
The two cities and WHPS can choose to send messages to people in an entire city or in select geographic areas. Anyone who signs up for the free service will get emergency messages automatically.
“It literally takes less than a minute to sign up,” said Melvin. “You basically say who you are and how you want to be notified.”
Kroells encouraged new CodeRED users to sign up to also receive general notifications, which will provide information about situations that are not emergencies. Any emergency messages will pertain to true emergencies only.
Interim City Administrator Mark Kaltsas said about CodeRED, “Our intent is to use it, but not over use it to the point where it becomes white noise.”
Recipients of CodeRED messages can be residents or business owners in the two cities or someone located elsewhere who has an interest in a particular property in Independence or Maple Plain.
For example, someone who lives in Iowa might want to know about situations, such as a sewer back-up, affecting parents residing in one of the two cities. Or a Minnetonka resident might want to be informed about a water main break at his or her Maple Plain business.
Further, a Maple Plain or Independence resident can find out about road closures due to accidents on Highway 12.
When someone signs up for CodeRED, their information becomes part of the CodeRED database, which is used only for getting messages to users, Kroells said. CodeRED does not share user information with WHPS, the cities of Independence and Maple Plain, or anyone else, unless compelled to do so by a court of law.
All in all, staff from both cities indicated that the system should be helpful going forward.
“We didn’t have a way to notify people in an emergency situation,” said Melvin, recalling that difficulty in response to a tornado a few years back. “I think it’s a great collaboration of both cities and West Hennepin.”
The CodeRED database is not linked to other notification systems, such as the one used by Orono Public Schools. Anyone who is connected to a different notification system also would have to sign up for the Independence and Maple Plain CodeRED.
To sign up, visit one of these three websites and click on the CodeRED logo:
The link will take the user to the CodeRED website. New users can simply sign-up or set up a managed account. A cellphone app is also available.
Anyone who does not have access to a computer can call WHPS at 763-479-0500, Independence City Hall at 763-479-0527 or Maple Plain City Hall at 763-479-0515. Someone will collect sign-up information from the caller and input it into the CodeRED system.
At the meeting, the City Council also took up other business. Here are meeting highlights.
Board of Appeals
Hennepin County Appraiser Melissa Potter gave the City Council preview information in preparation for Independence’s local Board of Appeals and Equalization, set for 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 12 at Independence City Hall.
Independence property owners have received notices of property values that will be used for calculations for property taxes payable in 2017. If a property owner disagrees with his property value, he can come to the board meeting to begin an appeal process. He will need to bring documents showing why he is questioning his property value. The board can reduce or increase the property value.
Potter recommended that property owners call her at 612-348-3046 prior to the meeting. She said that she had already received 22 phone calls about this year’s market values.
She can make some decisions based upon phone calls. Otherwise, she can bring information pertaining to a particular property to the local Board of Appeals.
If a property owner is not satisfied with local board results, he or she can make an appointment to attend the Hennepin County Board of Appeals. A second set of eyes will look over the property value.
Assessors analyze property values in a city along with sales data from the market, Potter said. Independence has 1,678 taxable parcels with a total market value of approximately $665,414,800. Overall property value increased 3.8 percent for all property types in Independence.
This coming year, residential properties will bear a heavier tax burden than in the previous year. Value of residential lakeshore property in Independence has increased by 8 percent and off-shore residential property values have increased by 4.8 percent. Meanwhile, agricultural property values have declined by 1.6 percent and commercial property values by 1.3 percent, Potter said.
Highway 12 Safety
Kroells reported on lobbying efforts at the state capitol aimed at obtaining funds for safety improvements to Highway 12. He said that three families testified before the Senate Transportation and Public Safety Budget Committee about deaths of loved ones on Highway 12. He said their testimony was powerful.
Between 40 and 50 people from the west suburban Highway 12 area attended the Senate committee hearing, Kroells said. A House committee hearing is scheduled for March 30.