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Day of decision Monday on Tama County’s need for new emergency radio system

February 1, 2019
By John Speer Central Iowa Press , Northern-Sun Print

Fire departments, ambulance services and law enforcement across Tama County depend upon radio communications to respond to emergencies as well as for routine operations.

The radio system in place is described as "failing at an alarming rate according E911 and Emergency Management Coordinator Mindy Benson. She says the system is over 20 years old.

The E911 Board includes representatives from the 12 towns in Tama County, the county itself and also with membership offered to other areas which provide service such as out-of-county based fire departments.

Article Photos

Glorious Sight
Claire Shefchik, an RN at Tama County Health and Home Services photographed this image about 9 a.m. Tuesday, morning, Jan. 29. It’s called a “22-degree halo” according to the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Illinois website. With it encircling the Tama County Courthouse and radio tower in the center, could it be prophetic of an important decision o be made Monday by the Board of Supervisors concerning the emergency and lawn enforcement radio system?
The university information says “A 22 degree halo is a ring of light 22 degrees from the sun (or moon) and is the most common type of halo observed and is formed by hexagonal ice crystals.”

The board has recommended a plan proposed by RACOM, a Marshalltown communications equipment supplier. A cost breakdown of the RACOM proposal includes: system infrastructure $2,670,875; radio $1,108,526; paging system and pagers $414,951; and towers and sites $2,392,820 -all to be county-owned.

The price tag is "not to exceed $6.75 million" with payment in the form of a loan agreement with the issuance of General Obligation Emergency Services Equipment Bonds.

The Board of Supervisors will decided on Monday, Feb. 4, whether to proceed.

During a Jan. 21 public hearing, supervisors heard questions why bids had not been sought and the effect of the cost upon property taxpayers.

Responses from Tama Dennis Sheriff Dennis Kucera, firefighters and Benson cited the importance of a reliable system for safety of all residents as well as the repsonders.

Benson has defended the 911 Board decision to not seek bids because they believe an alternative system would be more expensive, does not allow for paging of fire and ambulance personnel and the reliability of RACOM service. She says the radio service is mandated by Iowa Law and, as a result, does ont require bidding.

The Tama County Dispatch Center in the Courthouse - Sheriff's Office in Toledo serves fire departments in 12 Tama County towns, ambulance services in Tama, Toledo, Elberon, Clutier, Garwin, Traer, Dysart and Gladbrook and first responder units for Clutier, Montour and the Meskwaki Settlement.

In addition to the Sheriff's Office, Tama, Toledo, Dysart and Meskwaki Nation Tribal police departments are part of the dispatch operation.

The E911 operating budget totals $252,750 the Emergency Management budget is $829,384 for the current fiscal year.



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