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Published: Wednesday, 8/10/2005

Monroe County rejects call for radio-system help

MONROE - A Monroe County commissioner last night was thwarted again in his two-year effort to have the board approve hiring a consultant to advise implementation of the county's new emergency radio system.

In his most recent attempt, Dale Zorn asked the board to spend $45,000 to hire a consulting engineer to oversee completion of the county's VHF paging system. But he could not get a single board member to second his motion, and the proposal died without a vote.

"We voted on that issue months ago," Commissioner Randy Ansel said. "We have our staff, Motorola, and the federal government working on this. Who needs a consultant?"

Commissioner William Sisk, who previously supported Mr. Zorn's request, decided last night to oppose the request.

"They have made improvements in the system. I have faith in the project team," he said.

Mr. Zorn told his fellow commissioners he was disappointed by their lack of support for the consultant.

He said he believes the $6 million federal grant the county received in 2003 to install the system required that a consultant be hired, that numerous problems with the system that went online this year prove a consultant was needed, and that the county's fire chiefs have been vocal in their support for expert assistance in the VHF portion of the project, which impacts them directly.

Mr. Zorn also said he believed the county wants to save whatever money is left over from the project to buy more equipment

"I guess that explains it," he said. "I wonder if the federal government knows our intent?"

Earlier, in a report to the board, county sheriff's Lt. David Thompson, who directs to radio installation task force, said that a number of the kinks in the radio system have been worked out.

Specifically, poor portable radio reception in a number of areas improved considerably after three malfunctioning amplifiers were replaced.

"We found out the switches were not manufactured properly," he said.

The system also has been improved, according to Lieutenant Thompson, by reactivating the Ida tower, giving the county four radio towers.

He said a fifth tower likely will be added in the near future when the county taps into a new tower being constructed in North Toledo. That connection will improve reception along the Ohio-Michigan border, where radio service has been spotty, he said.

Lieutenant Thompson said the VHF system, which will be used by the county's fire departments, will be enhanced once his task force gets approval by the Federal Communications Commission for a new frequency the county will share with the Bedford Township fire department and the Pleasant Ridge, Mich., police department.

The previous frequency selected is being used by the village of Whitehouse in Ohio. Officials there declined the share the frequency with Monroe County, Lieutenant Thompson said.

In other business, the board:

w Approved providing up to $35,000 to the county's Healthcare Cost Containment Task Force for hiring a consultant to help the group explore appropriate health care benefits for county employees.

w Appointed commissioners Henry Lievens and Mr. Zorn to the Food System Economic Partnership regional leadership team.



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