by Steve Peterson
Plymouth County Supervisors heard an update on the communications tower situation from the Emergency 911 Board (E-911) recommendation.
“The Emergency 911 Board looked at fixing or replacing it, and the answer is no and no,” said Supervisor Craig Anderson, the county board’s representative on the E-911 Board.
“This tower has three principle users at the moment, backup to county fire departments; Le Mars Police Department and it has a dish for the Plymouth County Engineer’s Department,” said Anderson.
“There was talk of building another tower on the grounds and that would cost $65,000 — just for the tower,” said Olson.
There is an estimate on cost to take the tower off, which was not mentioned specifically.
“There have also been talks with the City of Le Mars about some other possible locations. The current estimate is it will cost $100,000 in fiber optics to go out to the engineers’ office. I had hoped we could shorten the tower substantially and still leave the dish up there but we need the height that we’ve got,” said Anderson.
“Is there a possibility of a vendor coming off the city’s water tower. That would mean a few less dollars of rent but they would not need to build a big huge tower,” said Supervisor Don Kass.
One option is to service the engineer’s office outside of Le Mars with fiber optics.
“I think it has to go someplace else,” said Supervisor Jim Henrich.
“It’s a lightning hazard and it’s unsightly. It has to come off,” said Kass.
The last tower the county E911 Board funded cost $141,000.
Lightening hit the communications tower on the Plymouth County Courthouse on July 2.
“The 911 Board had the funding but it has dried up due to the reduced land lines. Akron and Merrill fire departments will be the last ones that the board will supply radios to for their fire trucks. That has been something the E-911 Board has done since it started, paying for all the radios and pagers, hand-helds of the fire departments, the communication center’s equipment. These projects are really expensive, $150,000 for the radio equipment to be replaced at the communications center,” said Anderson.
“Radios have a shelf life of 10-20 years,” said Olson. Radio infrastructure costs for the 911 equipment will be $40,000 just for maintenance.
“At the last meeting, the E-911 Board decided they would no longer pay for the radios, hand-helds or pagers,” said Anderson. “When the sheriff comes in with his budget, he will have to budget for radio replacements, and so will the fire departments in every single town. The good news is they have everything in place now.”
“The surcharge for cell phones goes to the state and we get a small check,” said Olson. “The vendor has about two to three years of parts on hand but if something catastrophic happens, he would not be able to replace them.”
A three-person committee consisting of Olson, Kevin Rollins of Plymouth County Fire Departments and Kirk Hatting of the Plymouth County Sheriff’s Office will study options for the next few years as appointed by the E-911 Board.
It is better to place a 911 call from a cell phone outside than inside, officials pointed out.
“If you’re inside we will have a six-block radius to work with but it is not guaranteed,” said Olson.
In other county business:
• Supervisors approved a contract for voting equipment with Henry Adkins, Inc. The vote was 4-0. The new equipment would be ready for the Fall 2014 election. The contract includes a discount for the old equipment. The cost will be $118,713.
“The old equipment was used for seven elections, not for school and county,” said Feldman.
• Regarding the Fiscal Year 2013-2014 Fiscal Year budget, a request has been forwarded for county funds from Plains Area Mental Health for $143.778. Supervisors will discuss the budget starting Jan. 8.
• Iowa Municipal Workman’s Compensation Board informed the county supervisors that Plymouth County is above the experienced rate for a discount, at 1.29 versus the allowed 1.09. It will take a couple of good claim years to reclaim the discount, said County Auditor Stacey Feldman.
• County Assistant Engineer Terry Marienau recently told supervisors work had been completed at the County Road C-38 bridge replacements.
• Siouxland Regional Planning Council, Kass said, was informed of planned work on Iowa Highway 3 in Akron and Le Mars area in the next fiscal year.