Police radio turns a deaf ear to Florence
Florence Police Department’s portable radios are unable to communicate with county dispatchers in Marion, Florence Police Chief Michael Stone told Marion County Commission on Monday.
One example where this problem was evident was a report that a man had brandished a firearm during a roadside argument outside of Florence. Stone asked for assistance from the station before arriving on the scene. It turned out the man had only showed his cell phone. By the time Stone arrived, the argument had been resolved, peacefully. However, without a working radio on his person, Stone could not call dispatch in time to call off the assistance. Sheriff Robert Craft arrived himself to provide backup.
“These guys have business to do,” Stone said of the sheriff and deputies.
The situation could have been much worse than wasting someone’s time. Stone has pulled over drivers he suspected of having outstanding warrants. He said in the time it takes him to unlock his phone and dial, a suspect would have enough time to attack him.
“It’s nice to know when you leave the vehicle that you have a lifeline,” Stone said.
Stone added that K-Com, the company that completed narrow banding for Marion County radios, had visited Florence and said all the local radio equipment was working fine. Marion County Emergency Management Director Dan D’Albini said he could no longer receive a signal when he was a mile east of Florence on U.S. 50; in town, the transmission was filled with static. He said there was a problem with Florence’s repeater.
The commission suggested hiring a different contractor to survey the equipment.
“Apparently, K-Comm is not doing what we’re asking,” Commissioner Randy Dallke said.
D’Albini also suggested putting Florence on its own signal to breakup radio congestion with other county agencies.
“The equipment is there; it’s just getting it to work right,” D’Albini said.
D’Albini thought some of Florence’s communications issues would be solved with the installation of a 92-foot communications tower outside of the new jail.
However, the commission has received complaints from Marion residents that a 92-foot tower would not be allowed under city regulations. In the case of a storm, the tower would need enough room in every direction to fall on county property. Marion City Administrator Doug Kjellin said regulations dictate that the tower should not exceed 45-feet.
The commission discussed a 40-foot tower but also the possibility of placing an antennae on top of a water tower in Marion, a suggestion Kjellin provided. Craft spoke with a representative of TBS Electronics Inc. One possibility was cabling communications from the operating equipment in the old jail to the new facility.
Commissioners were not enthusiastic about heating and cooling a building just to provide communications. They instructed D’Albini to continue researching options and present them in more detail next week.
There is a chance Craft’s communications option may not be viable. The commission weighed demolishing the old jail in a discussion with City of Marion officials about repaving 4th and Williams streets. The streets were damaged during jail construction.
Commissioners agreed on a proposal to pay 40 percent of the cost of repaving streets. The county would pickup $62,000 of the proposed $150,000 cost of a concrete street.
In the case that the county decides to demolish the old jail, Dallke said it would take on the cost of repairing the new road damaged by machinery.
Officials discussed concrete and asphalt solutions, deciding to solicit bids for both styles. The county’s proposal will be submitted at the next Marion City Council meeting.
In other business:
- Craft gave the commission a notice that the county was being sued. Joyce Rohloff claimed she was injured when she drove over a pothole. She did not specify the road. The document said the incident occurred July 1, 2012; commissioners thought the plaintiff meant 2011. They were also unclear of whether she was asking for $2,000 or $20,000.