Haakon County radio system to be reprogrammed

A federal mandate which requires all communication radios to be programmed to narrowband frequencies will cost Haakon County less than expected for reprogramming, but will require the spending of additional monies to replace existing unprogammable radios.

Lola Roseth, Haakon County emergency manager, and Curt Rees, Pierre, of Western Communications, updated the Haakon County Commission on the mandate. Rees said the mandate originated due to high populated areas running out of frequency channels.

Currently radios run on 25 kilohertz. The narrowband would drop that to 12.5 kHz. The digital radios drop that further to 6.5 kHz, which would result in four bands to the 25 kHz's one band. Reports note that digitals are not required as analog versions will work, but it is suggested that the Federal Communications Commission will require the digital in the future.

Rees gave the commission some good news in that all four of the county's repeaters are capable of being reprogrammed to the 12.5 kHz. Roseth noted that there had been a concern about the oldest one. Rees noted his company had ascertained that it was capable of being reprogrammed. A new repeater's cost is close to $20,000. The repeaters are installed on towers around Haakon County and receive and transmit radio signals. Rees commended the board on Haakon County having 100 percent radio coverage for first responders, those that respond to accidents, fires, etc.

The county is responsible only for the radios used by its departments. Each department is responsible for making sure their radios are up-to-date. Kenny Neville, highway superintendent, noted that his department will need to purchase 11 new radios, the remaining ones are either already 12.5 kHz or can be reprogrammed. The commissioners gave Neville approval to purchase 11 radios at an approximate cost of $450 each. Rees noted if they are purchased now there is a $250 rebate for each group of eight purchased.

All fire departments and ambulance services within Haakon County, Rees said, would be responsible for updating their own equipment. He noted that anyone not in compliance by January 1, 2013, can be fined, or have their license revoked.

Rees stated that he estimated it would take his company three to four days to have everything within the county reprogrammed, including the repeaters. He said if all the entities gathered in staging areas, his company could charge a lesser fee for the reprogramming.

Roseth updated the board on her activities. She said there is a stockpile of sandbags in case of flooding this spring. She noted she will have to attend a state mandated class that will be taken through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Neville gave a review of his plans for road work this spring. He was given approval to attend a highway superintendents meeting in Deadwood March 15-17.

Auditor Patsy Freeman suggested the board hold a special meeting this month to outline a county policy regarding support of the poor payments. She said she had been gathering information regarding what other counties do as well as state requirements. She was directed to set up the meeting and have State's Attorney Gay Tollefson at the meeting. The board decided to discuss agenda items regarding policy handbook and opt out information at the special meeting.

Reports that were reviewed included the sheriff's department, county health nurse, veterans service officer, and library. Freeman noted she did not have a reconciliation of accounts finished at that time.

During the sheriff's report Sheriff Mel Smith presented a quote for a new sheriff's vehicle in the amount of $24,499. Commissioner Steve Clements noted he had spoken with the Philip city finance office, and that the city would be willing to sell their Durango for about $14,000. The commission opted to further pursue the purchase from the city.

The board approved the renewal of the prescription discount card program with PCS Health, LL. There is no cost to the county as it is part of their membership with the National Association of Counties.

Two raffle requests for fundraising efforts were approved. Traci Radway, Haakon County register of deeds was approved to attend a training workshop in Pierre March 16-17.

Meeting minutes from February 1, 2011, were approved with a name correction. The past month's warrants were also approved.

The board entered into an hour long executive session to discuss personnel issues. No action was taken following the session.

The board's next regular scheduled meeting is Tuesday, April 5, 2011, at 1:00 p.m.