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Can you hear me now? – County and city join to upgrade communications

By Staff | Jan 25, 2008

The upgrade to radio communication used by first responders in Emmet County has the green light.

On Jan. 22, Emmet County Sheriff Larry Lamack, Estherville City Administrator Steve Woodley and Emmet County Supervisor Jim Jenson met. Dan Jorgenson from the E911 Board was unable to attend. Both Jenson and Woodley stated their entities approved the formula for financing the upgrading of the county’s communication system.

Jorgenson communicated by phone the E911 Board also approved the financing.

Over the last three years, discussion among first responders and the E911 Board has been about upgrading the radio communication system for Emmet County.

The E911 Board hired a consultant out of Mankato, MN, to take a look at Emmet County’s communication system and make recommendations back to the board. The consultant estimated that the upgrade would cost approximately $500,000 for new radios, radio console and equipment for three tower sites.

The tower sites selected would be Armstrong, Gruver (already being used by first responders) and a tower just west of Estherville. Going from one to three tower sites would improve radio coverage in Emmet County for first responders.

The problem was to come up with $500,000 to pay for these improvements. Three years and two federal grant applications later, funding for improvements was still not available.

The Emmet County Sheriff’s Department called a meeting on Jan. 8, with a member of the E911 Board, an Emmet County supervisor and a representative for the City of Estherville to discuss possible funding of this project. Attending were Lamack, Jenson, Woodley and Jorgenson.

Everyone was in agreement that an upgrade for radio communication was needed and that it should be “digital capable.” Currently all emergency radios in Emmet County are “analog.” Digital radios have less radio interference, better tone and better range.

Jorgenson made a suggestion the E911 Board could pay for half of the total cost for the upgrade, about $250,000. The county and city would pay for the other half. The county would be responsible for 65 percent of $250,000 and the City of Estherville would pay the remaining 35 percent of $250,000. Everyone thought this was a workable solution and each member would take it back to their respective board or council for approval.

With all entities now in agreement, the sheriff department will be forming a committee with members representing law enforcement, fire, ambulance and emergency management in the county to begin working with the consultant on this project.

Lamack said, “I want to thank the E911 Board, Emmet County Supervisors and the City of Estherville for coming together and financing this project.”