Solution Coming to Radio Communication Issue in Starke County

Damaged Starke County Sheriff's Department tower
Damaged Starke County Sheriff’s Department tower

An economical and quicker solution may come to fruition regarding the radio communication issues in Starke County’s Oregon Township.

The radio tower atop of the Starke County Sheriff’s Department suffered extreme damage in severe storms in June and July and has static communication with Oregon Township and in the San Pierre area. Oregon Township Trustee Mark Allen had approached the Starke County Council this week with an idea for a solution, but the members tabled the issue for further discussion. Council President Dave Pearman explains that decision.

“That original motion basically died – not because we didn’t want to move forward and support the community. The reason why is we wanted to expand this and see if we wanted to look in other areas,” said Pearman.

Pearman met this week with IT Director Joe Short, EMA Director Ted Bombagetti and a representative from the Department of Homeland Security in researching equipment to take care of this issue with public safety. Pearman said in addition to Allen’s solution the representative from the Department of Homeland Security suggested using a piece of equipment that is readily available in the EMA office.

“We have the potential for two solutions that we feel we can move on very quickly and they’ll be very economical – particularly in the case of the piece of equipment that Mr. Bombagetti has. It would allow us possibly to move it to other areas if another department has a problem or if EMS has a problem. Any other radio system could be supported as well.”

Pearman has met with the Koontz Lake Fire Chief and discussed this solution with the other council members and the commissioners who are all in agreement in moving forward.

“I had spoken with Oregon Township Trustee Mark Allen and basically what had happened on Monday night, he said he wanted to hold and get something in writing from the county council. Well, the board of commissioners, the council and the EMA Director, we are concerned about public safety so I’m inclined not to wait. I contacted the fire chief from Koontz Lake directly and he said he would like to move forward and get this solution in place so they can have the same type of capabilities you would have anywhere else in the county.”

The fire department is unable to use the county’s 800 MHz as a sole means of communication as the digital signal cannot reach into most structures so the fire departments still rely on the old “glorified walkie-talkie” VHF radio system.

Pearman noted that the decision to utilize the radio equipment from the EMA office is not expected to have to be approved in a formal meeting.

“I’m just not convinced yet that this will have to be from a budget that has to be approved by the council yet. We’ll definitely bring this to the council again if we have to get approval. We want everybody to be on board. I will tell you I have spoken to every single one of the council members about this and everybody in support of what we have to do for public safety. The good thing is I think we’re very, very close to a solution that’s going to fit everybody and instead of having to wait months for the new tower to be erected, we’ll have a short-term solution that will enhance their situation to where it should be.”

An application will be filed immediately for licensing with the FCC to possibly get things running in the month of March.

“We intend to tell them that this is an emergency situation. We would like to expedite things, but obviously when it comes to a federal organization we are at their mercy with their manpower and how they can do this. But, if things really go well, we’re looking at a couple of weeks – on the big end four to six weeks. I think we’re very close to a solution.”