County Board Purchases Communications Equipment

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Published on June 25 2013 3:48 pm
Last Updated on July 14 2013 4:07 pm
Written by Greg Sapp

The Effingham County Board Tuesday approved the purchase of $233,000 in equipment in an effort to eliminate a lack of communications capability between law enforcement agencies.

The purchase specifically is to allow city and county officers to hear each other when out of their squad cars and using portable radios, but the hope is that communications will in general be enhanced between agencies.

It's hoped the new equipment could be in place within a couple of months.  The move would still allow County to communicate with other law enforcement agencies through existing technology, as well as communicate with City and State officers via the Starcom 21 system.

The vote was 6-3 with members Karen Luchtefeld, Jeff Simpson and Lloyd Foster voting No.  Simpson voted against the motion since it was up to Sheriff John Monnet what system he favored.  Simpson said it's up to the department heads what equipment they use.  Foster said he wanted to consider a last-minute proposal from Global Technology Systems and Luchtefeld indicated she wanted to consider both proposals before voting.

Those who voted for the motion said the matter has gone on long enough, that the current system doesn't work, and that someone is going to get hurt if the communication system isn't improved.

The purchase will be over a seven-year period at a 4.16% lease rate until the transaction is completed.  The County will pay $39,181.74 annually, but the first payment is not due until one year after the contract is executed.

The County will acquire 28 portable units and 25 mobile units, as well as a consolette.  The units will allow deputies to communicate on the old 800 megahertz system as well as the Starcom 21 system and the high-band system the County had been implementing.

Motorola supplies the Starcom 21 system.  According to their survey work, their system will deliver better than 95% coverage throughout the county.  That tops what the 800 system delivers, as county sheriff's deputy Darren Deters shared.  Deters has surveyed the county and said problems with 800 can be found in Altamont, Edgewood, Dieterich, Beecher City and parts of Watson.

Chief Deputy Sheriff John Loy asked that provision be made for the County Dive Rescue Team and K-9 Search and Rescue as well as the Coroner's Office. 

The other concern is the area fire departments and police departments that don't have Starcom 21.  Altamont Police Chief Alan Heiens told the Board he doesn't have funds to make a switch to Starcom and doesn't want to be left without the ability to communicate.  Loy said communication with fire departments and with the Altamont and Teutopolis police departments will remain intact or work will be done to make it available.  The existing 800 system will be maintained as long as possible, but replacement parts are no longer available.

Monnet did some venting during the meeting, acknowledging he's been taking some heat for the decision to pursue a high band system rather than Starcom 21.  He reminded the Board that he applied for a half million dollar grant but only received $140,000 at the same time the City was moving ahead with installation of Starcom.  Since he didn't receive even half the funds he was seeking, Monnet instead pursued development of a high-band system that wouldn't involve monthly fees for using Motorola's towers.  He asked, "Am I the bad guy, or is it the City for going to Starcom?"

Monnet did not, though, make a recommendation today as to which system he'd pursue now.