Commissioners table emergency radio system proposal

The discussion at Monday’s Marion County Commission meeting regarding a county-wide emergency radio system that Commission Chairman Howard Collett estimated could add a mill a year to taxes over the next four years was tabled until next week.

The radio equipment proposal that was presented for budgetary pricing by Mark Grabar of TBS Electronics, Topeka, totaled $1,395,625, which will come from mostly grants plus a county share.

The equipment would make it possible for all county law enforcement, emergency medical services personnel and fire departments to communicate with each other over the same system.

It would replace a system split into VHF and UHF frequencies with equipment acquired individually by departments over time.

Looking at the list of equipment needed by all such emergency departments in the county, Commissioner Leroy Wetta noted that many city departments have their own tax base and taxing authority.

Wetta wondered if cities should be required to pay for their own shares under the plan in order to to keep the county from financing a “wish list” without primary responsibility to pay.

Collett suggested that the life-saving benefit of the new system would be worth the $340,000 to $400,000 the county might have to pay under the tax estimate he made.

JoAnn Knak, EMS director, said costs may be reduced by covering needed equipment replacement already budgeted in department plans used to buy units within the new system.

Using an analogy of “learning to drink from one cup where it used to take four for everybody,” Sheriff Lee Becker said the improved technology would help response of all emergency personnel while streamlining costs for the system.

Gene Winkler, EMT, said some things that might appear duplications, such as providing a hand-held radio instead of pagers for each EMT member, would increase efficiencies by allowing quicker responses to an ambulance call, and better attention at the emergency site.

Michelle Abbot-Becker, communications director, said grant money for the system would be shared with money from grants in which some funds are already on hand. For instance, she said, $39,000 from federal anti-terrorism funds will be lost unless it’s spent for radio equipment by June 16.

About computer equipment, Commissioner Bob Hein said, “We’ve got to have this.”

So commissioners approved purchasing computer equipment that may pay for itself within a few years.

The two modules, each priced at $2,495 plus $600 for annual service costs, will be purchased out of budget and used for tax reporting on the Web, according to County Treasurer Jeannine Bateman, as well as by County Appraiser Dianna Carter for reporting appraisals by paying a $20 a month fee to the county.

The commissioners approved a bid of $23,331.60 for steel bridge beams and decking from Wellborn of Salina over a bid of $24,099.30 from Steel & Pipe Supply of Manhattan.

The commissioners approved a bid of six semi-annual payments of $4,095.71 each from Hammel Scale Co. of Wichita for scales at the county solid waste transfer station. These scales are to be installed by June 15 to relieve use-pressure on the scales at Cooperative Grain before wheat harvest.

County Clerk Carol Maggard reviewed a letter from the Kansas Secretary of State Office under the federal Help Americans Vote Act that will enable the county with a $911.20 investment to receive $63,300 in benefits to place a voting machine at each polling site by June 30, 2004. The investment amount will possibly be taken from the 2003 budget.

Steve Cross, ING deferred compensation representative, reviewed the retirement plan for county employees that allows them to invest-up to 25 percent of their wages without paying taxes-in a fund that has been earning 4.75 percent.

The commissioners approved buying a new sink and hot water heater for the employees’ break room out of the employees’ pop fund.

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