Sheriff’s department to move radio equipment during city project

Published 6:59 am Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Mower County Sheriff’s Department will have to shuffle its radio equipment during the project to sandblast and paint the 14th Street water tower so the equipment isn’t damaged.

The tower is being sandblasted and painted because of new regulations, and the city project will remove and replace the lead paint, which is a health hazard if the paint flakes off.

If the equipment was left on the tower, the crews that will be sandblasting the tower would likely damage or destroy the radio equipment.

The water tower project is set to start in mid-August, and it will last about three months.

The Mower County Sheriff’s Department will have to move the equipment off the tower, and install a temporary bridge to keep communication lines open.

The equipment on the water tower is key hub in the Sheriff Department’s radio system, and is one of five communication hubs. During the painting of the water tower, a temporary bridge will installed on top of the Twin Towers apartment building to fulfill some of the functions of the water tower radio system.

Once the radio equipment is removed from the top of the water tower, sheriff’s deputies will have to use different channels in Austin than they use in the rest of the county. The data terminals in squad cars won’t operate in western portions of the county.

“It’s going to be a whole new procedure we’re going to have to operate under when the water tower goes dark,” Sheriff Terese Amazi said.

Other equipment will need to be replaced or reprogrammed. The warning sirens in Elkton and Racine will need to be replaced or reprogrammed, so dispatch will be able to sound the sirens during a tornado.

The total cost of the project to move the radio equipment and update the necessary equipment is about $138,667.97. The commissioners approved about $32,000 for the costs of the project. An additional $106,000 is yet to be approved, but a portion of such costs will be paid jointly by the city and the county.

A portion of the money for the project will come from the county’s contingency budget. However, there’s not enough money in that fund to cover the costs, so money from the county’s reserve fund will need to be used.

The county is moving the equipment on short notice, as Sheriff Amazi said she wasn’t notified of the need to move the equipment until late October. Amazi said it was largely because of miscommunication.

Had the county known about the need to remove the equipment, Commissioner Ray Tucker said the county would have looked into using a different site for the radio equipment, or they could have taken measures to protect the equipment.

After the project, the equipment will be placed back on top of the water tower. The bridge system may remain in place on top of Twin Towers, and that will likely replace phone lines that cost about $5,100 a year. While the project is an unexpected cost, Amazi said that portion of the project will pay for itself.