The Free Press, Mankato, MN

July 1, 2013

Police Sentinels look like lemons

Mysterious poles are for commemorative banners


The Mankato Free Press

---- — Q: Last year at the Mankato air show, the Public Safety Department demonstrated and used a fancy “Segway” type personal transporter. Around that same time, the Free Press highlighted them in an article. I had assumed we would see more of them at Riverfront Park events or other events held in a contained area. I haven’t seen them since the air show. What was the cost to the city for these machines? What happened to them and why do they seem to have disappeared?

A: The vehicles weren’t Segways — which is unfortunate, as it turns out. They were Sentinels, produced by Xtreme Green Products of Las Vegas. Like the Segway, the driver stands while operating the electric vehicle. Police thought the whisper-quiet Sentinels would be good for patrolling downtown, in neighborhoods that had been experiencing burglary or vandalism sprees, and at large public gatherings.

Unlike the Segway, the Sentinels have three wheels. And in the case of one of the two purchased by the Mankato Department of Public Safety for $9,000 each, the vehicle would stop dead without warning, according to Public Safety Director Todd Miller.

Repeated efforts to get Xtreme Green to replace the vehicles were unsuccessful.

”I don’t know if they’re still in business,” Miller said.

The department recently turned the vehicles over to the city Public Works Department to make repairs, and Miller is optimistic the local mechanics will get the machines working in a reliable way.

”I’m hoping to have them available for the Fourth of July,” he said.

Ask Us attempted to reach Xtreme Green for comment, but the company didn’t respond to messages left on the company voice mail Thursday and Friday. The most recent news updates on the company website were late in 2011 and the most recent posts by others on the Xtreme Green Facebook page were “are you guys still in business?” and “Is the company still in business ... ?”

Q: What are the poles for that are on the center island of Madison Avenue on top of the hill? They are similar to the light poles but there’s nothing on top of them. It doesn’t look like it’s for cameras because there are cameras at the intersections.

A: Look closely, and you’ll see that it’s not entirely true that there’s nothing on top of them. Actually, there’s a small letter ‘M’ at the top. But holding up the little ‘M’, which is presumably for Mankato, isn’t the point of the poles. Ask Us explained last fall that these are “banner poles” similar to the ones in the downtown area. They hold banners commemorating an event, such as flags for the Fourth of July or purple-and-gold for Vikings training camp.

But the answer last fall did beg the question: couldn’t banners just be put on the nearby light poles?

”The M poles are used to allow for efficient hanging of banners (same bracketing system, staff time related to methods of hanging) and consistent locations (ends of center medians),” responded Tanya Ange, assistant city manager.

By the way, the tourism banners were paid for by Visit Mankato, also known as the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Contact Ask Us at The Free Press, P.O Box 3287, Mankato, MN 56002. Call Mark Fischenich at 344-6321 or email your question to mfischenich@mankatofreepress.com; put Ask Us in the subject line.