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Police seek donations for lifesaving project

New Richmond police are looking to save the lives of at-risk kids and adults.

That's why Police Chief Mark Samelstad is trying to raise $13,000 to start a Project Lifesaver program in the City.

The heart of the project is a two-way locator system, including personal transmitters and a state-of-the-art tracking antenna that could help officers find lost individuals.

The equipment is the same as what the St. Croix Sheriff's Department and Pierce County Sheriff's Department are trying to purchase for the region.

Samelstad said New Richmond is far enough away from Hudson that it would be a good idea for his department to have the system ready for use here.

"If we have a child go missing in the winter months, or an old person with Alzheimer's go for a walk, a half an hour is a long time," he said. "It would make a big difference to have the equipment right here."

Samelstad said he hopes to have one locator antenna in each of the two primary squad cars that patrol the City.

Transmitters (at a cost of $300 each) would be provided to families with children with autism or other developmental issues. The transmitters will also be provided to adults with dementia who are at risk for getting lost.

"We want to be able to provide this to people, whether they can afford it or not," Samelstad explained.

If enough funding is pledged, Samelstad said the only cost to families will be replacement batteries for the transmitters (which would have to be changed once a year at a cost of $5-$10.)

The New Richmond School District reports that there are about 24 children locally with autism. There are also about 22 kids with Down Syndrome, and 15 other at-risk youngsters.

There are approximately 30-40 adults with Alzheimer's in the immediate area as well.

The Police Department has had to deal with lost children and adults on several occasions over the past couple years, Samelstad recalled. Those cases prove that the population of the area is big enough to warrant the cost.

"I think there is a need for this program here," Samelstad said. "But I don't have money in my budget for the equipment. I'm going to have to rely on the community to come up with the funds."

The Department invited local service organizations and businesses to a May 13 meeting to discuss the proposed project.

He said several groups pledged support for the idea.

"They all seemed very enthused about the program," Samelstad said.

Samelstad said he's encouraging groups and individuals to talk to others about the need for Project Lifesaver locally. As soon as enough money is raised, he said the equipment can be purchased and training can begin.

"The sooner we can get this going, the better," he said.

If Project Lifesaver gets off the ground locally, Samelstad said he will form a four-person committee to oversee the program.

Nine counties and Green Bay are the only law enforcement agencies in Wisconsin who have set up a Project Lifesaver program, but more and more communities are adding the service, Samelstad said.