CASS COUNTY – The Cass County Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday to hold a public hearing on Oct. 29 on a $2 million bond issue to upgrade the county’s radio system however, at least two supervisors voted against the motion raising concerns about the effectiveness of the system and how soon the equipment would have to be upgraded.
The county has been using a VHF system, which Cass County Sheriff Darby McLaren described as having big problems with “dead spots” in Atlantic, making it hard for Cass County deputies and Atlantic Police officers to communicate with each other, while the system around the rest of the county is “adequate.”
A board was created in 2007 to create “a more complete system that could be used for better communication and interoperability of first responders and other areas of public service,” according to a letter to the City of Atlantic from Lt. Devin Hogue from the Atlantic Police Department.
State officials worked with Motorola Solutions to create the system in 2016, which went into service last October. Following that, Cass County officials began discussing moving from the VHF system to the statewide radio in order to guarantee they could communicate with state agencies.
Pettinger asked how effective the new system would be compared to the current system.
“If we do this, what is the outcome?” he asked. “Is the outcome going to be any better if we do this than the way we are now with our communications? How many times in the last year would that outcome be any different with this new communication versus the new communications that we’ve got?”
Board member Steve Green, who was the former Atlantic Police Department Chief, described a couple of situations in which multiple first responders were responding to an incident and had trouble communicating with each other.
“They had a situation at Wal-Mart,” he said. “ I believe it was a bomb threat. The fire department couldn’t talk to the law enforcement, and the law enforcement couldn’t talk to the comm center on the frequencies they were running.”
Pettinger wondered if the outcome in situations like these would have been different, and Green said the situation may have been resolved faster, and first responders may have been safer if they were able to communicate.
Hartkopf was worried that the county would spend the money on the system, only to have it become outdated quickly, and then the county would have to spend more money to upgrade it again.
“How quickly will this technology be taken out? (Is it) going to be here for a moment and be gone?” he asked.
Green estimated the equipment would be good for at least the next 15 years.
The cost of the equipment is approximately $1.75 million.