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Four agencies have agreed to and signed the memorandum of understanding from the Spencer County Sheriff’s Department and Spencer County EMS regarding the use of their radio frequencies, but the Taylorsville Police Department and the Taylorsville-Spencer County Fire Department are not on that list.
Thus far, Mount Eden Fire and Rescue, Northeast Nelson Fire Department, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Mount Washington Police Department have returned signed copies of the MOU, Spencer County Sheriff Donald “Buddy” Stump said Thursday.
And, those agencies have signed the agreement “with no issue,” Stump said.
However, Taylorsville Police Chief Toby Lewis advised the Taylorsville City Commission on Feb. 26 that he didn’t see a need to sign the agreement at the time.
And, on Monday, the Taylorsville-Spencer County Fire Board voted not to sign the MOU, said Fire Chief Nathan Nation.
Lewis said that the agencies can communicate without it.
“Our radios are not capable of talking in digital,” Lewis told the commission, adding that if the departments needed to communicate, the sheriff’s department or EMS could switch to the fire channel, which TPD is currently using until it gets its own frequency in place.
“We do have the ability to communicate through the fire channel,” Nation said.
Contacted Tuesday, Lewis said he has never seen an MOU regarding radio frequencies that is this long — the MOU is five pages — and thought it best for the city attorney and commissioners to go over it in more detail before they rushed into signing it.
However, Stump said memoranda of understanding are common and that the federal government has several templates that agencies can use to tailor to their local needs.
Stump said his department’s name is on the Federal Communications Commission license and he is responsible for the frequency and anyone who uses it.
Having the MOU in place is professional, Stump said, adding that he signed one in agreement with EMS and that EMS Director Jeff Coulter signed another in agreement with the sheriff’s department.
“It’s not that I don’t trust anybody, and I’m not asking anyone to do something I haven’t agreed to do,” Stump said.
Under Section 3 of the MOU, the corresponding public safety agency agrees to:
•Continue to maintain their radio communication equipment to manufacture and FCC specifications.
•Maintain reasonable security from loss or theft, and unauthorized use for all radio communication equipment operating on any SCSO and SCEMS frequencies.
•Report immediately to the SCSO and SCEMS any incident that causes loss of control of any radio communication equipment operating on any SCSO and SCEMS frequencies.
•Enable circuitry in the radio communication equipment to prevent transmitter hangon in excess of three minutes.
•Use “plain English” for all voice transmissions.
•Refrain from “in-house” radio traffic not pertaining to mutual aid and disaster response/coordination incidents.
In addition, the sheriff’s department and EMS agree to:
•Secure and maintain FCC licensing for all mutual aid frequencies subject to this MOU.
•Use “plain English” for all voice transmissions.
•Monitor the public safety radio interoperability calling channels.
•Establish a dispute resolution process.
•Identify any inappropriate use of the public safety radio interoperability calling channels and mitigate the same from occurring in the future.
•Mitigate contention of public safety radio interoperability calling channels by exercising discipline over the radio communication network.
•Minimize traffic on all public safety radio interoperability calling channels to maximize usage during emergencies.
Stump said the agreement is to ensure that if any problems or complaints arise about the usage of the frequency, he will know which departments are using the frequency, make sure radio equipment used on the frequency is maintained to standards that don’t create issues of hangon, and to make sure that the agencies know what to expect when using the channels during an emergency.
“If you’re a first responder, you’re going to emergency situations,” Stump said. “We need to have an MOU so that we’re on the same page. When you go to a scene, it’s an emergency.”
For instance, Stump said he has a letter of agreement with Probation and Parole, and that letter suffices because those officers do not respond to the scene of emergencies.
Lewis said Tuesday that the Taylorsville Police Department is not ruling out signing the MOU, but said he wants to look at it thoroughly before signing it.
“I’m not against it totally,” Lewis said. “At any point in time, we need to work together.”
Lewis said he hoped to review the MOU with City Attorney John Dudley Dale and possibly bring it back before the commission at its next meeting.
Nation said the primary reason the fire board decided against signing the MOU is because its members thought the MOU should be broken into two.
“We feel that those should be two separate agreements,” Nation said. “One fore EMS and one for the sheriff. That was the biggest issue.”
The secondary issue, Nation said, is that “a lot of it [the MOU] is unnecessary.”
However, the fire board does see value in having a written record of who is using each frequency, Nation said. In fact, the board is in the process of sending out its own MOU.
“What we’re doing is different,” Nation said. “We’re cleaning up what we’ve been doing in the past. All that’s necessary is written permission from the agency that holds the license allowing the other agency the ability to program it. What we’re trying to do is offer ours, which everybody’s already got it, but it cleans up the paperwork and puts it in writing.”
The fire department’s agreement will simply “document where we are right now,” Nation said.