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New Scott County 911 dispatch supervisor helps out hometown

Growing up with family members who worked in public safety, Ashlee Sames always thought it made sense for her to follow a similar path. Her dad worked in the fire service for many years and several cousins were police officers.

“It was just kind of something that I was immersed in growing up and really felt a strong pull to,” she said.

Her commitment has paid off. Recently, after nearly 15 years in public service, Sames was promoted to the role of dispatch supervisor for the Scott County Sheriff’s Office.

Promoted by Scott County Sheriff Luke Hennen in November, she is now one of three dispatch supervisors for the sheriff’s office.

Hundreds of 911 calls come through the dispatch center every day. As a supervisor, Sames oversees shifts to ensure dispatchers are responding to calls correctly and activity is running smoothly. She also helps to answer calls alongside dispatchers and offers herself as a supportive resource for staff workers when they need help on a call.

Sames has strong ties to Scott County. She grew up in Prior Lake and has lived in Shakopee for the last several years. In 2007, she started her public safety career as a Scott County Sheriff’s Office dispatcher. “It’s great getting to serve the community that I grew up in,” she said. “This is just home to me, and Scott County holds a near and dear place to my heart.”

Hennen said employees from the area like Sames are able to use their local knowledge to help 911 callers. For instance, he said, some callers will reference local landmarks instead of providing an address, so it helps when employees are familiar with these locations and the general layout of Scott County.

“I’m definitely proud of our employees who choose to come back to our communities to serve … and it’s great when some of our employees have that connection right up front that can solve somebody’s problem pretty quickly,” Hennen said.

Beyond her role as a dispatcher, Sames also has experience working as a communications training officer, crisis negotiator and supervisor.

Five years ago, Sames left to work at the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office. She worked there for four years before returning to Scott County in March 2020 as a dispatcher.

Sames said her time with Ramsey County was a great learning experience. Working for a more urban agency, she was able to gain knowledge and exposure to the types of calls not seen as often in Scott County.

Hennen said it’s often beneficial to bring in people from other agencies. “Bringing ideas, processes and some of that knowledge back definitely helps us do our business better in our dispatch center,” he said.

DAY ON THE JOB

Sames’ main responsibility as a dispatch supervisor is to oversee the day-to-day activity of shifts. The supervisors also make sure equipment is functioning properly, ensure that shifts are adequately staffed and perform administrative tasks like performance evaluations and quality assurance checks. She also still takes calls and dispatches alongside the rest of the dispatch team. The center is currently comprised of 17 full-time dispatchers.

The dispatch center receives about 500 calls a day, Sames said. According to the Scott County Sheriff’s Office, the center typically sees an average of 250,000 calls a year.

Sames said it’s important in her job to go into autopilot on a high-priority call and revert back to her training by working through the call and processing it. She added that dispatchers do not have time to dwell on calls when things get busy, so getting into “go mode” is essential.

Sames also recognizes that many people may have misconceptions about dispatch centers because of how the job is portrayed in the media. “I would say our dispatch center and probably most dispatch centers are really nothing like what is portrayed in Hollywood,” she said. “It’s not always as glamorous as portrayed in the media with movies and television.”

One of the biggest misconceptions, she said, is that dispatchers immediately know where someone is located when a call comes in. In reality, the first question dispatchers ask about is the location of the emergency. Another misconception is that everyone on staff works on handling each call together. Sames said the center typically has call takers and dispatchers managing calls independently.

Looking ahead, Sames said she is excited to work as a dispatch supervisor and provide support to the rest of the dispatch team.

“I look forward to being a resource to our staff and someone they can go to for assistance with questions, help on a call if they need me to jump in or whatever I can do to support them in their position,” Sames said. “I look forward to having this opportunity.”


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City, developer say Speedway mistakenly named for south Savage development

Uncertainty and confusion surrounded future development of a vacant corner near Prior Lake High School recently after documents associated with the property inaccurately indicated plans for a Speedway gas station.

On Dec. 20, the Savage City Council approved a wetland replacement plan “for a Speedway convenience store with gasoline pumps and a car wash,” but developer Dean Trongard since told the newspaper he’s not currently in talks with Speedway about the property at the northeast corner of County Road 27 and 154th Street.

Trongard, who is a partner with 4833 W 123rd, LLC, as well as the entity’s real estate broker, said he and co-landowner Joseph Card believe a gas station is the best use for the property, adding the closest gas station is two miles away and there’s no other gas station on County Road 27 in all of Scott County.

Trongard’s wetland application, obtained by the newspaper through an open records request, listed “Speedway” as the project name, but goes on to state a development plan has not been finalized.

City Administrator Brad Larson said the subsequent Savage City Council memo stating the wetland replacement plan was “for a Speedway” was incorrect, although he’s uncertain why Trongard’s application titled the project “Speedway.”

In an email to the newspaper, Trongard said other possible uses for the site could include a dance studio, dog day care or housing.

“We would like to move forward with site preparation work to make this site more attractive for possible end users,” he wrote, adding no exact user has been identified at this time.

Desire for a gas station

A convenience store with gasoline pumps and a car wash is envisioned for the development, according to the wetland replacement plan application.

In 2019, Savage officials sold the roughly two-acre property to Card for $5,000.

At the time, city officials said it would be a great location for a convenience store and gas station.

The city had owned the land for over 15 years as a remnant parcel from previous road construction, but officials hadn’t seen much interest from developers, according to Larson.

“The location is great, the quality of the site is poor,” Larson said.

Challenges for development on-site include a significant hill, wetlands, a gas line, setback requirements associated with the nearby Credit River and the property’s triangular shape.

The purchase agreement between the city and landowner initially stated the land would be developed within one year, but the Savage City Council has since granted extensions.

Larson said the extensions gave the landowner more time to work with the private property owner to the east, but the parties never reached an agreement.

“Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond our control, we have failed in our efforts to acquire additional property,” a representative of the landowner wrote to city officials in November.

Wetland credits

Through their business entity, which holds ownership of the land, Trongard and Card are looking to purchase wetland credits from the City of Savage to move forward with development.

Minnesota’s wetland banking program, administered by the state Board of Water and Soil Resources, allows landowners and developers to purchase wetland “credits” to offset environmental impacts of development on wetlands.

In November, a representative of the landowners wrote a letter to city officials proposing a wetland credit transaction to mitigate the wetland impacts planned for the development.

State law puts forth wetland replacement requirements, but the property under review for the Speedway development doesn’t have adequate acreage to establish a new wetland, according to a proposal submitted to the city.

The development team is proposing to instead meet the mitigation requirements by purchasing 0.76 acres worth of wetland bank credits from the City of Savage’s wetland bank.

The city previously acquired around 10-acres worth of wetland credits when it built a larger-than-required wetland behind the homes on 125th Street and Ensign Avenue, according to City Administrator Brad Larson.

“We can use those wetland credits for city projects or as an economic development tool,” Larson said.

On Dec. 15, the Savage Economic Development Commission reviewed a proposal from the developer to purchase 0.76 acres worth of wetland credits for $1 per-square-foot, or roughly $33,105.

Market rate for the city’s wetland credits would be approximately $1.14 per-square-foot, bringing the purchase cost to $37,740, according to city documents.

The Economic Development Commission, which makes recommendations to the Savage City Council, supported moving forward with the wetland credit transaction, but voted in favor of a market rate price for the city’s wetland credits.

The existing wet meadow wetland proposed to be filled for development has been degraded and bisected by previous developments.

In September, the Wetland Conservation Act Technical Evaluation Panel recommended approval of the developer’s proposed wetland impacts.

If city officials move forward with the wetland banking transaction, the money would go towards creating higher quality wetlands in the future, according to Larson.

The Savage City Council is set to discuss the request at the work session on Monday, Jan. 10. The city’s work sessions are open to the public, but not televised.


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