County to add communications transmitter near Douglass

By Olivia Haselwood
Andover Leader – July 12, 2017

Emergency communication service is about to change for the better in Rose Hill. At least that’s the hope after commissioners approved adding another simulcast site on a cell tower near Douglass.

Chris Davis with emergency communications told commissioners Tuesday he is confident placing a new site on a Pioneer Cellular tower on SW 215 about 1 1/2 miles east of Douglass will fix radio problems in that area and in Rose Hill.

Last month Davis came before commissioners and asked to utilize funds from an early sunsetting sales tax to help better the signal in Rose Hill. The original agreement in 2009 for the new county-wide radio system cost the county $13.2 million dollars and included all new responder radios and six simulcast sites. The agreement was for 95 percent radio signal coverage throughout the county. Motorola’s setup did exactly what it was suppose to. The only problem was one of the “dead zones” for the system fell over a more densely populated area in and around Rose Hill.

Emergency communications along with emergency responders, Emergency Management, Butler County fire departments and Sheriff’s all expressed concern due to the large amount of calls and population in that area. Residents of Rose Hill have also voiced concerns about their coverage calling for commissioners to allow three months to be added to the sales tax to pay for a solution to fix the coverage gaps.

Davis said last month that because of the signal gaps, radios in Rose Hill and portions of Douglass could receive emergency messages, but could not send them. In some buildings, especially basements there was no service at all. The consensus was this put not only residents, but first responders at risk. They could not call for backup if needed, or make others aware of risky situations if they arose. Davis and a Motorola representative brought coverage maps for the commissioners showing what they anticipated the minimum coverage to be if the new site was constructed. The map showed very few “white” spots, in a sea of red, which represented coverage in that area.

The project will cost the county $576,888 and add three months to the sales tax. However, the sales tax will still sunset early. The original sales tax was to sunset in April of 2020 or when the debt was paid off, whichever came first. The final debt payment is projected for March of 2018. The addition of the Douglass site will push the sunset back to June, but still allow the tax to sunset almost two years ahead of schedule.

Motorola is offering the county a $31,573 discount for the site. It is expected that the equipment will take 30 days to arrive and another 30 days to install.

There are more rural areas of the county with coverage gaps as well, however, Davis said those areas are less of an issue due to being mostly agricultural land and the extremely low volume of calls that happen in those areas.

Commissioner Mike Wheeler voted against the proposal stating he wasn’t convinced the site would fix coverage problems in Rose Hill.

 

Posted by Gwen Dorr Romine, KSFFA Webmaster
http://www.ksffa.com
KSFFA’s Fire News Blog Home Page

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