The Starke County Commissioners voted unanimously Monday to reject an invoice for repairs to the county’s radio system. They agreed vendor J&K Communications did not adequately fix the system as promised and contend they used existing equipment without authorization. J&K has since told the commissioners they need to spend an additional $4,000 on a new VHF antenna to ensure adequate county-wide coverage.
The issue is part of an ongoing emergency communications problem that has plagued the county since a radio tower in downtown Knox was toppled by strong winds several years ago. It could not be replaced due to height restrictions within the city limits. As a result, there are dead spots in Koontz Lake and North Judson. Members of the Koontz Lake Volunteer Fire Department struggle to communicate with dispatchers.
Starke County Emergency Management Agency Director Jake Lippner has spoken to another vendor who recommended installing two additional towers at a cost of between $2 and $3 million. He’s reached out to two other companies for proposals but has yet to receive any information. Lippner told the commissioners he’s waiting for direction from them before proceeding.
The commissioners recommended a committee be formed to look into the issue and suggested former EMA Director Ted Bombagetti, who now works for the state, and former county IT director and volunteer firefighter Joe Short serve on it. They also told Lippner to stay on the vendors he’s contacted until he gets information.