(Clarinda) -- "Fix it"--that's the message Page County's first responders sent regarding the county's communications system at a special meeting Thursday evening.
Members of the county's E-911 board, the county's emergency management agency, and the county's technical oversight committee conducted a marathon joint meeting at Clarinda City Hall to hammer out short-and-long-term solutions to problems associated with PageCom, the county's joint communications center. During the two-hour session, officials reached agreement on this short tern solution: By a 8-to-1 vote, the county's emergency management agency approved a resolution requesting Raycom and Electronic Engineering to inspect the county's communication equipment, and not leave until problems are repaired.
Shenandoah Mayor Dick Hunt cast the lone dissenting vote, citing dissatisfaction with Electronic Engineering--the company which installed the center's radio system. Hunt based his comments from public feedback about the current problems--including garbled dispatches.
"How can I hear the man on the moon in my living room when you can't hear Clarinda or Page County?" asked Hunt. "I just want somebody to tell me what to tell these people on why we can't."
Distorted dispatches aren't limited to Shenandoah first responders. Essex Fire Chief Sam Jones outlined problems with calls on his pager.
"Electronic Engineering programmed every pager in this county," said Jones, "at the Shenandoah Fire Station. They've programmed every pager, every radio. I'm still using that pager--I can't understand nothing. I had to call over to dispatch the other night when we were in a warning to find out what we had, because I couldn't hear it."
Clarinda Mayor Gordon Kokenge made the original motion to request Electronic Engineering's assistance. Kokenge based his recommendation from first responders--whom he called "the people in the field" at Thursday's meeting--and from what he called "the height of frustration."
"You people are out there," said Kokenge. "If you people feel like we should do something as a recommendation to us, that would expedite that, and make it quick, then I feel we should do that as a commission. We're not out on the field, and you're throwing a lot of light on a lot of things for us, at least for me tonight."
Consensus of personnel in attendance was for the company to fix the county's radio problems. Page County Emergency Management Coordinator Marvin McClarnon recommended also requesting Raycom's services, as the company installed the center's radio consoles.
Officials also decided on a long term objective: by an 8-to-0 vote, the EMA directed McClarnon to quickly contact Tusa Consulting Services of Kansas City to see if the company's November, 2014 study on the county's radio system is still valid, and to update the company's proposal. Tusa recommended that the county switch to a simulcast radio system, which would alleviate problems with overlapping communications.
County Sheriff Lyle Palmer says progress is needed on solving the county's radio problems--problems he says didn't exist when he began his law enforcement career several years ago.
"You could pick up a radio and you could talk," said Palmer. "I know that's been a while back, but still, we didn't have this problem. You could hear Clarinda cars in Shenandoah. We've got to get to a point where it's like that, instead of people not being able to hear what they're saying. If they can do it in other counties, surely we can figure out how to do it in Page County."
McClarnon is expected to report back to the three commissions at a future joint meeting--the date of which has not been set.
One note: Page County's Emergency Management Agency consists of mayors from each community, plus a county supervisor and the county sheriff. The county's E-911 commission includes those officials plus police and fire chiefs in each community. The county's technical oversight committee's membership consists of Shenandoah and Clarinda's police chiefs, plus the county sheriff, one firefighter and one medical representative. Jones and Shenandoah EMS Director Ty Davison were appointed to the commission during Thursday night's meeting.