An area couple brought their concerns about emergency response times in rural areas to the Ward County Commission during its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday morning.
Alan and Donna Harvey told the county commission about two incidents they've had to endure, both situations made worse by slow response times by emergency personnel.
The first situation happened about three years ago when an uncle of Alan Harvey's was visiting and had a heart attack.
"I called 911," Alan Harvey said. "They took 45 minutes to get there and he died at our place."
The Harveys live west of U.S. Highway 83 on Ward County Road 18, which is about 11 miles south of Minot.
After waiting for a time, Harvey called 911 back to ask about the ambulance. He was told it had to come from Makoti since that was the fire district the Harveys lived in.
"I said my uncle laid there for 45 minutes because they had to come from Makoti and he died? He might have died anyway, I don't know," he said. "But that was just unacceptable. I think that's something that should be checked into."
Harvey said a second incident on June 18 is what made him and his wife decide to speak before the commission. Harvey said he woke up around 12:30 a.m. to a loud noise he originally attributed to an unlatched door or window being battered by a storm that was supposed to be moving through the area. The real reason for the noise was far more frightening.
"I started getting up, and it dawned on me," Harvey said. "It wasn't just the wind. I heard somebody kicking my door in the house."
After quickly dressing and taking the pistol he keeps in his bedroom for just such an emergency, Harvey walked into his kitchen and was met by two screaming men, one of whom was carrying a baby. The men yelled at Harvey not to shoot, and Harvey made them sit down at the kitchen table before calling 911.
It took deputies 64 minutes to arrive on scene, which Harvey said were some of the tensest minutes of his life. One deputy had to come from Kenmare and the other ran into a flooded road, which forced him to backtrack all the way to Rice Lake to get around.
One of the men said he had been kicked out of his girlfriend's house with the baby and they were looking for shelter. In talking with them, Harvey found out they had been to a neighbor's empty house earlier and kicked the door in there, as well. This made him doubt their story about only wanting shelter.
Child Protective Services was called to take the baby, but they never did come. The Harveys and authorities had to wait for the baby's grandmother to come from Douglas to take the child. When all was said and done, it was 5:30 a.m. before everything was sorted out.
Harvey noted the men bonded out of jail and both have since been arrested again.
Commission chairman John Fjeldahl said the Child Protective Services issue was definitely troubling and needs to be looked into. As for the roads, he said he knows there are some bad sections that remain submerged. Fjeldahl said unfortunately, they are currently at the mercy of federal officials to fund repairs. If something doesn't happen in the near future, however, Fjeldahl said the county will probably have to take matters into its own hands.
The commission thanked the Harveys for bringing those concerns up, and complimented Alan Harvey for not pulling the trigger in such a dangerous situation.
The commission also spoke with Terry Traynor, director of the North Dakota Association of Counties, about a next generation 911 agreement between the association and Ward County.
Currently, the association receives 20 percent of wireless revenue from the county. A new agreement to fund next generation 911 service would change that to 15 percent of wireless and landline revenue. Traynor said it would be a projected increase of around $180,000 per year statewide. Currently around $960,000 per year is raised.
Traynor said 17 counties have already approved the new agreement. If a county wants to drop out of the agreement at any time, it has only to send a letter stating its intention to do so. He said if not enough counties join together to make the next generation system, the state will be forced to step in and mandate whatever it wants. This is something Traynor said state officials have already stated they want to avoid.
The commissioners agreed the extra money would be worth it to help fund the new system, although Fjeldahl did have concerns about counties being able to drop out at any time, whereas state management would negate any county boundary issues.
The commission voted to accept the new agreement, with Fjeldahl the lone "no" vote.
In other business:
-The commission accepted a low bid from Keller Paving of $196,684.50 for highway patching work throughout the county.
-Work in the amount of $2,081.50 was approved to update a meeting and break room in the sheriff's department.
-The commission will be gathering more facts about the City of Minot's announcement to use sales tax revenue to help fund its Community Development Block Grant commitment and how that might affect the county's decision to put a 1/2 cent sales tax on the November ballot to help fund a new office building and courthouse remodel.