Commissioners hear from fire chiefs about radio issues

The Marion County Board of Commissioners met on Monday, Feb. 10 where fire chiefs from around the county came to speak about burn bans and radio issues.

All of the chiefs seem to be facing issues with both. The men expressed frustrations with the way that fire bans are determined since it is up to the commissioners to determine to place a ban or to lift it with advice from fire professionals.

Lincolnville Fire Chief Lester Kaiser brought up concerns regarding the emergency radio signal strength.

He explained the history of the radios for the new commissioners. He said that when the discussion about 800 MHz radios started, the departments were told that the radios would be an improvement over the existing radios as it could eliminate the dead spots some were experiencing. Finally meetings were set up and the fire departments were introduced to the 800 MHz radios. They were set up so the men could hear how the paging would sound and basically how they would work.

Kaiser explained that they were also given examples of the talk groups that would be loaded in the radios. As the meeting progressed, they were advised that radios would be left with the county so all the departments could try out the radios in their districts.

Kaiser said, “I know of 2 departments that did not get a chance to try the radios in their area. I was relatively pleased how the radios worked in my area (Marion County Fire Dist. 5, Lincolnville). I checked all the dead spots in my response area and the radios worked very well. I didn’t think to test them throughout the whole area or inside of buildings because we were advised that they would work better than our existing ones by fixing the dead spots we were faced with.”

He went on to explain that at a later meeting Hillsboro Fire advised that they had problems communicating from inside of buildings. They were advised that once we had our actual radios and they were tuned to the tower the performance would improve. Somewhere around this time a different radio talk group template was received with some changes on it. This is when they were informed of a state mutual aide talk group that is a direct channel so the firefighters could radio to radio without going through a tower.

“This was the solution for lack of communications from interior to exterior of structures. This tells me that they were familiar with the difficulties of talking from inside to outside of a structure, so they made this talk group easily available,” said Kaiser.

Other fire professionals in attendance also expressed their frustrations with the radios. They also expressed concerns about their ability to respond to emergencies in a timely manner is they cannot rely on their radios.

“So you are stuck with what you got and it’s not working?” asked Novak.

“Exactly,” said Kaiser.

“I was on the township fire (committee) with Liberty when we discussed it all and this is very disappointing that they were so adamant that this is gonna fix it all. I remember the question being asked if they would work well everywhere and we were assured they would. We got them all and the county spent a lot of money. And now we are backtracking here and saying it isn’t working. We do we hold the company accountable for telling us what they told us,” said Lehigh resident Linda Peters. “I am so sorry for all your troubles with them.”

The men thanked the commissioners for their support and funding in the past. He also mentioned County Clerk Tina Spencer’s help in securing a grant to help pay for the original radios.

Travis Parmley said that he has noticed that using a blue tooth vs a lapel microphone has helped the batteries not give out so quickly. The other fire officials agreed.

No actions were taken by the commissioners at this time.

In other business, the commissioners:

n heard from Nancy Marr regarding ongoing vandalism at the poor house that she owns out in the country between Marion and Peabody.

She mentioned that ”there are some evil people who take advantage of the building because the door won’t lock. I know who they are, too, because I have seen them. The sheriff office put a camera up. But they won’t arrest the people responsible for some reason. I don’t even call 911 anymore when people vandalize because I know they won’t come,” said Marr. “They stole a lot of vintage items that belonged to the poor farm that can’t be replaced.”

Gehring asked, “So you are here to let us know that the Sheriff department is not doing their job?”

“They are inadequate,” said Marr.

n met in executive session with County Counselor Brad Jantz to discuss potential litigation.

n approved the bid for the bridge inspections to be done professionally rather than by the county.

n approved the bid for a six month tire plan from Rod’s tires with the allowance of eight tires from TDW.

n heard from Peters regarding research she did comparing various quarries and their rock both in and out of the county. Peters also stated that she and her husband purchased three different types of the harder rock to test out and see if any hold up better.

n Voted 4-0 to build the county EMS building in Hillsboro. Novak voted against the plan due to her concerns about the extra costs.