Tower may not have improved communication

By: 
Jamie Ausk Crisafulli
Sunday, November 3, 2019
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A new 180 foot communications tower was erected behind city hall in August. The tower is used for emergency communications.

The emergency communications tower erected at the Glendive City Hall this summer is completed and the grant is closed out, according to discussion at a recent meeting of the Local Emergency Planning Committee, but work to make the tower function to the full potential for law enforcement continues.

The total cost of the tower was $382,699.80 with local 911 funds covering $47,000 of the cost and the remainder paid with grant funding.

The main driver of the tower was the promise of better communication coverage for emergency responders, particularly in downtown buildings.

But at the LEPC meeting last month, Police Chief Brad Mitchell said he hasn’t noticed any improvement since the tower went up. He said his department continues to have some communication problems although he cannot pinpoint those to the tower or to the police radios.

“With the bigger tower in the area it is in, I thought we would see some improvement within buildings and so far I have not, but I don’t know that it’s been tested very much either,” Mitchell said.

Sheriff Ross Canen shared his concerns.

“It’s not as advertised,” said Canen.

“That was supposed to get (coverage) in all the basements in every dark alley in the city and that’s the way it was sold,” he added.

Both agreed that the problems could be related to other outdated equipment the departments are using.

“Our radio console at the 911 center is in dire need of replacing,” Mitchell noted.

Money from the 911 funds have been approved to purchase a new console, Mitchell noted Thursday, but purchasing that equipment includes a process of developing specs and letting bids, something that has been put on the back burner during a period of shortages throughout the law enforcement community.

Dawson County Emergency Services Coordinator Mary Jo Gehnert was out of town for meetings during the October LEPC meeting and when reached for comment about the tower was surprised to hear of the concerns.

She has since reached out to law enforcement and talked to TAB Electronics, the company that handles local communication needs, to determine what work needs to be done to fine tune the tower.

She said when the tower was first up there was an issue with static that TAB was able to promptly clear up.

Making adjustments to the tower will continue to be part of the process to make sure it is working as effectively as possible.

“I think it’s just tweaking as we go along. I have noticed a lot of static has gotten better,” she said.

Local sanitarian Kevin Peña, who also serves as the DES assistant, at the LEPC meeting said he understands there are still kinks to be worked out.

“It’s safe to say the jury is still out on a verdict, other than to say it’s up and it’s functioning,” Piña said of the tower.

Meanwhile, Mitchell reiterated that the law enforcement communications needs are being meet.

“I guess my expectations were higher than they should have been,” Mitchell said Thursday.

Reach Jamie Ausk Crisafulli at rreditor@rangerreview.com.

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