LCESB talks faulty receiver locations

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Interim solutions being sought for short-term repeater placements

A Miller rural firefighter approached the Lawrence County Emergency Services Board (LCESB) concerning some spotty radio coverage north of Miller, which could seriously impede emergency responders’ ability to communicate with dispatchers and put their safety at risk.

Deputy Chief Jay Quoka reported some of the deeper hills and hollows in the northern part of the county lost radio communications when firefighters were responding to emergency calls. Quoka requested the board consider placing additional repeaters in key areas to help boost those communications.

“It’s for the safety of my folks and my responders,” he said. “The tower on [Highway] UU is not powerful enough to reach some of the northernmost areas.”

That was news to many of the board members, who then discussed the need for a comprehensive county-wide plan to locate other problem areas.

“We need to develop an economical manner for communications in the interim,” said Mike Palmer, chairman of the LCESB. “We will look into a solution to that problem, even if it is a temporary one.”

The board was also advised by member Brian Cook that the handheld radios used by members of Aurora and Marionville Police Departments were also inadequate, posing safety issues for officers.

In other business, Bonnie Witt-Schulte, director of Monett-Lawrence County 911 Emergency Services, advised board members that letters had been sent to all Aurora dispatchers looking for positions with the new dispatching facility and the invitation to take part in training at the current Monett dispatching center.

“We received zero response from that pool of candidates,” she said.

Witt-Schulte said things were currently on track to make the transition from Aurora to Monett-Lawrence County dispatching in January 2021.

Palmer updated the board that site inspections were underway for the location of the new facility, and that more information would be forthcoming at the January 2021 meeting.

“Representatives from Esterly-Schneider and Associates, out architects, are fully engaged in the analysis of the four location sites,” Palmer said. “They should have a fully prepared report with their recommendations by January 20, [2021].”

Board attorney Bill Petrus, of Mt. Vernon, reviewed a proposed five-year agreement with the City of Aurora outlining the use of their communications tower at no cost to the board.

“However, the stipulation is that this board repair, maintain and insure the tower as if they owned it,” Petrus said. “And the board would also have to receive permission from Aurora to add any other antennas on the structure.”

Further discussion revealed that there were already other antennas on the structure, currently under lease to the City of Aurora, and the board, taking responsibility for the tower as stipulated, would not likely receive any of the proceeds from those leases while having to maintain and insure the property as if it were their own.

Board members balked at the proposal, reaching a consensus that they wanted the board to own the tower outright with all of the responsibilities associated, along with all of the additional lessees’ proceeds coming to the board for maintenance and upkeep. As an alternative option, the board will consider leasing space on the tower at fair market rates offered to other lessees. That discussion included potential alternate tower lease sites from other entities should those negotiations fail to reach an acceptable resolution.

LCEDB members received notification of receipt of a $7,264 grant from Missouri 911 Service Board to be used in consolidating public safety answering points (PSAPs) services within the county.

In final business, the board approved a proposed 2021 budget for operational expenses, lease agreements, electronic equipment maintenance and professional services.

The next regular meeting of the LCESB will be at 6 p.m. on Jan. 27, 2021, at the MARC in Mt. Vernon.

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