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Following last week’s declaration of emergency regarding the radio communications system in the county, Judge-Executive Bill Karrer made an offer to the Taylorsville City Commission on Monday evening that would put law enforcement officials in the county and the city on equal ground where communications are concerned.
If the city accepted the offer, made at a special commission meeting Monday, the county would cover the cost of the new digital radio equipment for the Taylorsville Police Department, Karrer said.
“If the county just unilaterally goes to the digital system, then the city is kind of left out there hanging with no communications, and I certainly don’t want that,” Karrer told the commission. “So, our proposal is that we purchase all the equipment, the county purchases all the equipment, including the city’s needs, whether it be in-car radios or handheld radios.”
The county would also purchase radios needed for its departments (sheriff and EMS) as well as the equipment to go into the antenna sites at Settler’s Trace and Ky. 44 West.
After the initial purchase of the equipment for the city, any maintenance or repairs would then be at the cost of the city, but the county would cover the maintenance on any shared equipment, Karrer said.
Commissioner Kathy Spears asked where that would leave other agencies, such as Kentucky State Police and the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Commissioner Nathan Nation, who is also the fire chief and chair of the 911 Committee, responded that if the new digital radios operated effectively in “mixed mode,” there shouldn’t be a problem with that communication.
Essentially, operating in mixed mode means that if, for example, a state trooper keyed up his analog radio, a city police officer would be able to hear that communication on his digital radio and respond in an analog format if he keyed up in a predetermined amount of time, for instance, 5 seconds. If the city officer keyed up after that time frame, perhaps 6 or 7 seconds later, that communication would not be transmitted in a format the trooper could hear.
Under those circumstances, Nation said, the trooper or Fish and Wildlife officer could make the request again or could radio to dispatch and have dispatch ask the police officer or sheriff’s deputy to switch to analog mode. (The digital radios can also be switched to analog mode.)
Nation asked Karrer if he would consider providing the needed equipment to the state police troopers who are assigned to cover Spencer County.
“I’ll consider that,” Karrer said. “I don’t know how many they would need.”
Mayor Don Pay asked Lt. Rick Jewell, who attended the meeting on behalf of the Taylorsville Police Department, for his thoughts.
“Our concern is overall the safety of our guys, S-O [the sheriff’s office], so we all can communicate,” Jewell said. “The fire department, EMS, we all have to work together. Our main concern is, are we going to be able to talk to everybody?
“If I need help, I’m hollering for help. Is there going to be that time where they can answer me or they can hear me to come back and help me or can I do the same with them?”
Jewell then pointed out that if the police department and sheriff’s department are each operating on digital radios, the possible delay in communication wouldn’t be an issue. The issue only arises in communicating with agencies, such as the fire department or KSP, who have not made the switch to digital radios with ICOMM/Kenwood technology, but would still be reachable in mixed mode or by switching to analog.
Nation questioned why the issue wasn’t brought back to the 911 Committee, which is made up of department heads from each of the city and county’s emergency agencies.
“That’s where I was — we had tried many things, and when I say we, I’m talking about the county, the city, you name it, everybody, because there was lots of effort put forward there to try to make that work,” Karrer said. “To me, it just got to the point where, wait a minute, we must do something because we had a public safety issue.”
Commissioner Beverly Ingram asked why, if the current system works so well for fire and EMS, which it has in the past and does now, it didn’t work for law enforcement.
“I don’t know,” Karrer said. “I wish I did, and I’m sure the committee and everybody else wishes they did, too.”
Police Chief Toby Lewis was out of town and unable to attend the meeting, but Jewell called Lewis and put him on speakerphone near a microphone so that his thoughts could be voiced before the commission.
Lewis acknowledged that the current system isn’t working, but he said he wasn’t convinced it would take a lot of money to make it work. In his conversations with radio techs, Lewis said once the sheriff and/or police department secured a new frequency pair, the issue might become a non-issue and work as well as the system has for fire and EMS.
The current frequency pair is too close together than is recommended. The sheriff’s department and the police department currently share the same radio frequency.
Lewis said he wanted both departments to have radios that can talk to each other.
“Our guys work well together,” Lewis said.
He also requested that the current analog radio system be left in place so that the police department could utilize it if necessary on a new frequency, which Lewis has already applied for.
Based on the information presented and the fact that the county was willing to look into providing radios for other agencies, Nation asked if the same could be done for the fire district.
“We all need to communicate,” Nation said. “I didn’t choose this course, and as a committee we were going down another course, but since it’s been chosen, I would just ask that you consider addressing that issue for the fire district as well so that we’re all on the same playing field as we are now.”
Karrer asked how the fire district monitors the law enforcement communications now.
“The only people that had that is our officers,” Nation said, stating that would mean about 25 mobile units.
“Well, with that kind of numbers, I’m going to say no,” Karrer said.
Karrer said the end goal is the safety of the officers and the protection of the people of Spencer County, the population of which is estimated at 17,100.
“That is my primary responsibility ... and that includes the city of Taylorsville, because you have roughly 1,700, so about 10 percent of the population. They’re all members of the county, as well ...
“At some point in time, with the economics of it, I can’t do this, that or the other thing now,” Karrer said, referring to the added expense of purchasing the fire district’s radios.
Nation made a motion to allow the county the use of the sites at Settler’s Trace and Ky. 44 West for the digital antennas and to develop a memorandum of understanding with the county detailing the county’s purchase of all the equipment required for the city to operate on the new digital radio system.
Pay seconded the motion, which passed unanimously.
Karrer said he wanted to move forward and order the equipment so that it could be used as soon as possible.
Contacted Tuesday to follow up to the meeting, Nation said given the scenario that apparently the sheriff’s department, police department and EMS will soon be on digital radios with ICOMM/Kenwood technology, making the switch to that technology is something the fire district might consider.
“I think that’s something that we now have to consider,” Nation said. “We’re in no rush or immediate need. Our system is working and is working fine.”
The fire channel and the EMS channels haven’t had nearly the complications of the law channel, Nation said, probably because their frequencies are further apart. For example, if the law channels receiving and transmitting frequencies were 153 and 154, the fire district’s frequencies are 154 and 158.
Nation said he had no problem with the decisions that were made on the radio equipment, but wishes the process would have gone differently.
“There’s a process that should have went through,” Nation said. “The views of the members [of the 911 Committee] were totally disregarded.”
Karrer: Cost of city radios should be offset by sale of current equipment
The additional cost incurred by purchasing the city’s digital radio equipment should be offset by the sale of the current analog antenna equipment at the Ky. 44 West site, Judge-Executive Bill Karrer said Tuesday afternoon.
Karrer estimates the additional cost of the city’s equipment at around $10,000, but that is a high estimate, he said.
According to discussion during Monday’s meeting, the plan is to keep the analog antenna in service at the Settler’s Trace site, but to take down the Ky. 44 West equipment and sell it to recoup costs.
Karrer said the sale of that equipment should more than make up for the additional cost of the city’s equpiment.
“The reason we thought OK we can do this, is that in the original cost estimate, around $37,000 or so, nothing was figured in on the value of equipment we’re pulling out,” he said. “We can take that then and apply toward the city’s needs.
“We really want them on board, too.”
Karrer said the additional cost was covered under the emergency declaration.
According to KRS 39A.100, judge-executives can declare a state of emergency for a variety of reason, including “(d) To order immediate purchase or rental of, contract for, or otherwise procure without regard to procurement codes or budget requirements, the goods and services essential for protection of public health and safety or to maintain or to restore essential public services.”
Contacted Tuesday, Magistrates Jerry Davis, Mike Moody and Hobert Judd said they were not made aware of the judge’s offer to pay for the city radios.
Magistrates David Goodlett and Woodie Cheek had not returned calls from The Spencer Magnet as of press time.
Initially, Davis and Judd said they mostly likely wouldn’t be in favor of giving the city radios.
“I don’t think I would be in favor of giving them [the radios],” Judd said. “I think they would need to pay for theirs.”
Davis said he plans to bring up the issue at the next meeting of the Fiscal Court, which is Monday, Nov. 5, at 9 a.m.