Union County Emergency Management Coordinator Jo Anne Duckworth reported the progress on an emergency communication system to be shared across all public safety agencies in Union County at the Union County Board of Supervisors meeting Monday.
Duckworth said site designs for the four existing towers – Creston water tower, Creston Law Enforcement Center, Lorimor water tower and the Heartland tower in Afton – and the new Talmage tower are finalized. The design for the Creston water tower now includes a shelter to house equipment that requires climate control. Duckworth said the cost of the shelter should be balanced by savings at the other sites.
The final budget will be available once the paperwork for all site designs has been received. Duckworth expects the project cost to stay in the original range of $5 to $7 million. The Union County Board of Supervisors passed a bond not to exceed $7,150,000 in December 2018 to fund the system.
Duckworth said construction on these sites should move quickly in the coming month if the weather is suitable.
The communication paths needed for the system have been deemed free from obstruction and the frequency coordination is at 85% completion. Installation of mobile equipment is expected to begin in the next two weeks.
In addition to the new structures, the new system includes new paging systems and radios for public safety officials.
Duckworth said the progress on the project as a whole is on track.
“While some things seem to be running late on the timeline, I think things will progress to make all the final deadlines that have been set,” Duckworth said.
The estimated date for the system to be up and running is late October to early November.
The current emergency communication system, which is more than 10 years old, is insufficient for the county’s needs. The dispatcher is unable to reach some of the departments – such as Lorimor and Afton – reliably and quickly.
The signal does not reach to the eastern points in Union County, which means that the farther east the Afton fire fighters go, the less likely they are to be able to contact or be contacted by the dispatcher.
Union County dispatchers cannot reach the Lorimor fire department directly. They are forced to call the Madison County dispatcher, who then forwards the information to Lorimor.
Head Union County Dispatcher Mark Williams also said that the signal can be lost when first responders are inside buildings such as Greater Regional Health. He emphasized the need for reliable communication in a medical situation, which can be a matter of life and death.