We hope all our readers enjoy this story, but our subscribers help make this reporting possible. Please consider supporting local journalism by subscribing to the County News Review by clicking here or calling 763-712-3544.
Beginning on March 1, Arrowhead Transit will be the primary public transit provider for Isanti and Chisago counties.
During the Isanti County Board meeting on Jan. 5, County Administrator Julia Lines explained that the resolution placed in front of the board would authorize the transfer of assets from the Isanti County Public Transit Program to Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency, which the board proceeded to approve.
“Chisago and Isanti counties authorized (Minnesota Department of Transportation) to solicit bids to see if other entities were interested in providing transit services to Chisago and Isanti (counties),” Lines said about the bidding process and reason for the change in the public transit system. “Through the bid process, Arrowhead was selected by MnDOT. If no acceptable bids were received, Heartland Express would have continued operations. The county feels that Arrowhead will be able to provide more expansive service options for residents.”
As a separate entity, Arrowhead Transit will be interviewing interested drivers through their application process, Lines said, adding that more information is developing regarding particular job opportunities and wages that Arrowhead Transit can provide.
“Arrowhead will determine how many employees will be needed to serve Isanti and Chisago counties,” Lines said. “Isanti County does not play a role in that process.”
Lines explained the Arrowhead Transit system will provide expansive and flexible ride services for all residents.
“Isanti County residents and some board members will continue to serve on a Transportation Advisory Committee with Arrowhead to review service and provide feedback moving forward,” Lines said. “It is still in the planning phase, but I believe Arrowhead will have a transit coordinator locally.”
The assets that will be transferred include all office, garage, and fleet equipment purchased with state or federal funding, in addition to all base radio systems, hand-held radios, mobile radios, tablets, flare boxes, cameras, and other equipment installed or capable of being installed in the vehicles necessary for transit operations. The buses, desks, chairs and light bulbs will also be included in the transfer.
The Arrowhead Transit system will replace Heartland Express Bus Service on Feb. 28. Once the process of transition is completed, the new transit system will operate in the county-owned public transit facility at 245 Second Ave. SE, in Cambridge. The facility is a 5,877-square-foot steel-framed and steel-sided garage, with about 940 square feet of mezzanine space.
Arrowhead Transit is the largest public transportation system serving rural towns since 1974, according to the company website.
Services provided by Arrowhead Transit include scheduled service, Dial-A-Ride and a Volunteer Driving Program currently in the following counties: Aitkin, Carlton, Cook, Itasca, Koochiching, Lake, St. Louis and Pine.
Oath of office and board transitions
The Isanti County Board started the meeting by electing former-Vice Chair Susan Morris to serve as chair of the board. The board then proceeded to elect Commissioner Terry Turnquist to be the acting vice-chair.
Auditor-Treasurer Chad Struss administered the oath of office to Commissioner Mike Warring, former-chair of the board Greg Anderson, Commissioner Terry Turnquist, County Assessor Elisha Long, as well as the Soil and Water Conservation District supervisors.
On Jan. 6, Isanti Fire Chief Al Jankovich and Cambridge Deputy Fire Chief Will Pennings were among the first frontline workers to receive their first doses of the Moderna vaccine for COVID-19 at Isanti County Public Health, which the public health nurses administered.
“I’m optimistic this will get us back to normalcy locally, nationally, and around the world,” Pennings said.
“It’s been a challenging year for the fire service in Isanti, Minnesota and worldwide,” Jankovich said. “I’m excited to start the path towards putting this all behind us and having a great new year.”
Isanti County Public Health is a registered COVID-19 vaccine provider and received their first shipment of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 23. The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is a two-dose vaccine administered 28 days apart.
“The public health team is administering those doses to ... our public health nurses and like ambulance service, firefighters, emergency responders who have elected to receive the vaccine,” Lines said. “It is voluntary. (It) is not a requirement by the county. It is free (for) anyone who elects to receive the vaccine.”
The Isanti County Public Health is currently in phase 1 of vaccinating health care personnel and long-term care residents. As more vaccines become available, public health will administer them to priority groups in phase 2, which include adults ages 75 and over, and frontline essential workers. Phase 3 will include adults ages 65 to 74, people ages 16 to 65 with high-risk medical conditions and other essential workers.