Sheriff says hire expert to fix communication troubles

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
Sheriff Lee Becker began a dialogue Monday with the Marion County Commission that he hopes will result in all county emergency personnel being able to communicate with each other at the push of a button.

Becker, who admitted he wasn’t the radio expert the county needs to upgrade the system shortfalls discussed over the past two weeks, guessed the system needed for the entire couny might cost between $300,000 to $600,00.

Becker described a current, complex situation where the north end of the county has an inadequate VHS repeater boosting signals, and the south end is better off with UHF equipment upgraded by individual units such as fire districts at Peabody, Burns, Florence, Marion and Goessel.

Hillsboro, the largest city in the county, has unreliable hand-held communications, he said. Becker added that emergency efforts can be hampered because fire, emergency medical and law enforcement personnel can’t talk to each other directly, and often don’t have time to go through a central dispatcher.

Becker suggested commissioners consider the services of a consultant from St. Charles, Mo., to put together a county-wide system that would give clear service to every area. He said the consultant would examine the “existing infrastructure so we don’t have to throw it away,” and interview emergency personnel county-wide to determine needs.

The commissioners recognized Becker’s comment that the Marion County Communications Board, which he leads, has no financial authority. But they said the MCCB should make recommendations for them before they come to any financial decision.

Commissioner Leroy Wetta noted that although something needs to be done, the consultant’s $165 an hour fee is hefty enough to ensure that county goals be clearly agreed upon because the financial commitment is made.

“We need to get it right,” he said. “It’s been like this 14 years, so we shouldn’t just rush headlong.”

Commissioner Howard Collett suggested the county might need to look at a lease or lease-purchase program for equipment, and to make certain everything works as intended.

Dale Snelling, park superintendent, reported traffic for the county’s Labor Day fireworks event at Marion County Lake was bumper to from Kingfisher Inn to K-256 when the event was over.

Chairman Bob Hein said the commission has received many compliments regarding the event.

Snelling presented bids for repainting his department’s Dodge pickup with commissioners awarding the job at $1,252.13 to Winter’s Collission Repair at Marion over bids of $1,669.28 from Hillsboro Body Shop and $1,386.40 from Hillsboro Ford-Mercury.

JoAnn Knak, emergency medical services director, reported 83 ambulance calls for August: 38 at Hillsboro, 14 at Marion, 24 at Peabody and seven at Tampa. She also reported 18 first-responder calls: eight from Goessel, five from Lincolnville, four from Durham and one from Burns.

Knak said Randy Claassen, a Hillsboro physician, was named “EMS Medical Director of the Year” in Kansas at an August meeting in Kansas City.

The next EMS class for volunteers starts Oct. 1, she said, and the county would like anyone interested in being a part of local ambulance service to call 620-382-3271.

Knak reported that EMS service at the Marion County Fair resulted in two transports and 15 treated on the grounds for things such as burns from burst radiator hoses, chest pains, and smashed fingers.

Commissioners appointed a board of directors for Fire District #7: Tom Duggan as member at large, Tom Leihy for two years and Jim Novak for three years for the City of Tampa, Chris Srajer for two years and Gerald Rziha for three years for Blaine Township, and Richard Meisinger for two years and Ed Vinduska for three years for Clark Township.

Faye Makovec, register of deeds, presented bids for a microfilm reader printer with commissioners selecting a bid of $3,905 plus $400 a year annual servicing from Modern Office Methods of Topeka compared to a bid of $7,575.50 and $1,610.64 annual servicing from Imaging Solutions Co. of Wichita.

Bill Smithhart, noxious weed director, presented bids for a 2003 three-quarter ton, four-wheel-drive truck for his department with commissioners selecting a bid of $17,680 plus trade-in from Hillsboro Ford over $18,584 from Wright Chrysler and $21,468.11 from Irv Schroeder Chevrolet.

Gerald Kelsey, road and bridge director, and crew supervisors Jim Herzet and Tom Holub presented bids for a 2003 half-ton pickup. Commissioners awarded the bid to Wright’s at $14,505 over Hillsboro Ford at $14,910.

County Treasurer Jeannine Bateman sent a report to the commission outlining $4,476.69 spent from the Special Auto Budget as of Aug. 2 for many items from office products and supplies to annual meetings and subscriptions.

Commissioners met twice in executive session, first with County Attorney Susan Robson to discuss personnel, and then with attorneys Robert Brookens in person and Jim Kaup of Topeka by teleconference to discuss purchase of the KC Development Transfer Station.

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