STAPLES-A drone to aid emergency responders, a mobile command trailer to streamline communication in emergency situations and a specialized camera system for public sewer inspections are some of the regional projects that will come to fruition in the next year.

These projects, plus three more, are part of a collaboration coordinated by area city, county and other government associations, and are recommended to receive $450,000 in Innovation Funding from National Joint Powers Alliance.

All project applicants and several local government leaders gathered Thursday at NJPA for the 2017 Innovation Funding Review Day. Nine groups presented and fielded questions about their initiatives with a total request of $848,600 in funding, nearly double the amount available for 2017-18.

NJPA City and County Solutions Manager Anna Gruber stated in a news release that the energy of nearly 100 review participants shows Innovation Funding is doing what it was intended: connecting local government and supporting outside-the-box projects that directly benefit Region 5.

"It is rewarding to bring together colleagues and peers within the area and witness the networking, collaborations, and partnerships formed through this process," Gruber stated. "We had nine quality applications that all had visions to impact our region significantly. Any one of them could have been included in the top projects that were chosen to receive funding."

Individuals who attended the Review Day as a representative of a city, county or other government association within Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison, Todd or Wadena counties in Region 5 ranked the projects. The top five projects will receive full funding, with the sixth-highest ranking project slated to receive partial funding.

NJPA Regional Program Director Paul Drange will present the recommendations to the organization's board of directors at its June 20 meeting. The projects will come to contract after July 1.

Innovation Funding for City and County Solutions and Education Solutions began in 2014-2015 as a project partnership opportunity to help public agencies in Region 5 fund initiatives aimed at creating collaboration and improving the region. NJPA works alongside regional initiatives and financially supports them to ensure successful regional impact.

In its inaugural year, NJPA committed $307,670 in City and County Solutions Innovation Funding. That total increased to $411,933 in 2015-2016, and $420,235 for 2016-2017.

2017 Innovation Funding recommended projects:

• The Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office, Baxter and Brainerd police departments, Brainerd and Crosslake fire departments to receive $80,000 to fund the purchase and implementation of an Unmanned Aerial System, or drone, to be shared within Region Five and deployed in emergency situations to help save lives. Examples include missing persons, search/rescue/recovery operations on bodies of water, delivering a personal flotation device to a victim waiting to be rescued, determination of dangerous obstructions at a scene, hot spot detection at a fire scene, an aerial view of incidents such as a train derailment or structural collapse, and more. Funding would allow the purchase of equipment, as well as completion of training and federal regulatory requirements.

• The Morrison County Sheriff's Office to receive $100,000 to purchase a Mobile Command Trailer to be shared by the sheriff's departments in Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison, Todd and Wadena counties. This trailer provides a portable emergency and disaster communications unit that can be deployed anywhere quickly, allowing for a controlled, effective response. Response personnel, along with dispatchers, are located at the site to increase the effectiveness and timeliness of sharing information. The trailer will also be used as a mobile learning station for citizen outreach and education.

• Little Falls to receive $85,000 to purchase a closed-circuit television system to be used for sewer inspections. The camera would be loaned out to other cities and counties to observe the condition of pipes and enable the prioritization of replacement. According to the application, the project is due to the shortfall in funding to replace aging infrastructure; and, if awarded, the city would purchase the equipment and keep a calendar so other agencies could reserve the equipment for a one-to-two week period.

• The Regional Food Co-op Coalition to receive $49,600 and is led by the city of Crosslake. The Regional Food Co-op Coalition will use its funds to launch an educational campaign, emphasizing the value of food co-op membership/ownership and purchasing. Supported by six food cooperatives and communities from Region Five, the proposal allows for all regional food co-ops to work together on a campaign that relays the economic value of purchasing from local food retailers, who in turn purchase from local growers and providers - creating and retaining our regional wealth. The campaign will also focus on the personal benefits of purchasing healthy foods and further advise how neighbors and coworkers can help each other become food co-op members/owners.

• Friendly Rider to receive $45,400, partial funding, for the installation of Wi-Fi on eight of its transit buses, 12 school buses in four school districts within Wadena and Todd counties, as well as one to three buses for Tri-Cap Public Transit in Little Falls and Rainbow Rider in Long Prairie. According to its application, access to Wi-Fi on public transit and school buses will allow residents and students to access their electronic documents, answer emails, search for a job, start homework assignments, and more during their commutes. Friendly Rider is working to create a partnership between Todd and Wadena counties, four school districts in Wadena County, and Central Lakes College, as all have identified the need to expand Wi-Fi services for business, school, and personal purposes.