The Barry County E-911 Emergency Services Board received an update on radio infrastructure improvements at its quarterly meeting on Feb. 9.
"I have been all over the county looking, feeling and listening to the coverage of the rural fire departments, and it is pretty bad," said Terry Griffin, of Smith 2Way.
In November of 2008, the board approved a $61,449.95 bid from Smith 2Way for three new antennas and three repeaters that were to be placed in Purdy, Cassville and the Big M area.
After future research, Griffin found that the E-911 system would need additional equipment to improve radio coverage. He has recommended the board place 200-foot towers near Purdy and the Big M Marina. Each tower will cost around $25,000.
"I had permission to place a repeater on the Alltel tower at Big M," said Griffin. "Since then, Alltel has been taken over by Verizon."
With the help of Bill Shiveley, board chairman, Griffin has received permission to place a repeater on the KAMO tower west of Cassville. He recommended the board construct their own towers in the northern and southern portions of the county.
"This plan will provide 80 percent coverage to the rural fire departments," said Griffin. "Dispatch will be able to page out calls to the firefighters and get them to the scene where they will be able to continue to talk with the dispatcher on their truck radios."
Griffin suggested the board find a location to place the two additional towers and apply for FCC licenses for those towers. He said it would take some time for the licenses to be approved.
"One way you can speed up the process is by filing in someone's name as a business license for hire," said Griffin. "This costs $180 for a 10-year license plus coordination fees. This is what you would need to do to get a license in any kind of expedient nature."
Griffin also suggested the board consolidate Barry County's 11 fire department frequencies, which would improve dispatching services.
"We are not having any problems with our truck radios or communicating like that," said Wheaton Fire Chief Bob Lombard. "Our problems are getting to the scene and communicating with our portable radios on scene.
"We can talk fine in our trucks and using our base," said Lombard. "We have problems when the dispatcher calls and wants a status report and we can't get back to them on our portable radios."
Board member Richard Asbill suggested Griffin move forward with plans to place a repeater on the KAMO tower and evaluate the results of that addition before constructing the additional towers.
"Isn't it possible to try it out and see if the results are to the fire departments' satisfaction?" asked Asbill. "I realize that it will not cover all the fire departments, but why would we put up three or four towers without knowing if this is going to meet their expectations?"
The board directed Griffin to install the equipment on the KAMO tower and research costs associated with constructing the other two towers.
"I don't see that the board needs to take any action right now except to say that we are committed to providing the best coverage for the fire departments in the county," said Harold Schelin, acting chairman.
Griffin said that he would submit an application for a FCC license for the KAMO tower. Equipment will be placed on the tower within the next month.
In new business, the board received a list of committee assignments for 2009. Assignments are as follows: E-911 Director Pat Leighter and board members Schelin, Mike Redshaw and Mick Epperly, policies and procedures; Leighter and board members Asbill, Leonard Witt and Steve McClure, building; Leighter, Schelin, Epperly and Redshaw, communications; Leighter, Asbill, Schelin and Witt, financing; and Leighter, Redshaw, Witt and McClure, insurance.
In other business, the Barry County E-911 Emergency Services Board:
* Voted to add Schelin, Asbill, Shiveley and Virgil Harrington as authorized signers on the board's bank accounts and Schelin, Asbill and Shiveley as authorized signers on the board's safety deposit box.
* Heard that Barry County E-911 handled 101,114 calls between April 1, 2008, and Jan. 27, 2009.
* Scheduled the next quarterly board meeting to be held at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, March 23.