Archive for Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Leavenworth County faces stiff price tag to enter digital age

April 11, 2007

Leavenworth County's journey into the digital communications age will come with a substantial price tag.

An engineer with Motorola told Leavenworth County commissioners last week the cost would be $23 million for digital equipment for all relevant county agencies, various police departments throughout the county, rural fire departments and emergency management services.

The overhaul of the county's emergency communications system also will require a total of eight communications towers to give adequate signal coverage to 95 percent of the county.

County commissioners heard a wide-ranging discussion of the digital switchover Thursday afternoon, with their chambers filled with a host of public and private envoys, ranging from corporate engineers to Kansas Department of Transportation officials, a Mid-America Regional Council director and Leavenworth County Sheriff's officials.

According to Undersheriff Ron Cranor, the county's current radio system is "fragilely going to pieces age-wise."

By federal mandate, the more than 30-year-old system, which emergency services director Chuck Magaha said is "99.7 percent analog," must migrate to digital, 12.5-kilohertz technology by 2013.

The new technology will allow all county emergency service providers to communicate on a single frequency in the case of a disaster at "the flip of a switch or the push of a button," Sheriff David Zoellner said.

To facilitate the technological change, the county's structural, microwave background -- basically, the equipment on communications towers currently located in Easton, Kickapoo, Bonner Springs, Tonganoxie and Boling Grange -- must first be completely revamped.

Mid-America Regional Council is poised to install one tower directly west of the county's existing tower in Tonganoxie as part of the Regional Area Multi Band Integrated System, or RAMBIS, project that, according to MARC representative Marlene Nagel, will allow "interoperability" -- the ability communicate on the same radio frequency -- on a metro-wide basis.

The federal Department of Homeland Security will fund RAMBIS, but it is yet to be determined how the county will finance its portion of the communications upgrade.

Commission Chairman J.C. Tellefson said he was hopeful Leavenworth County could install equipment on existing KDOT towers in Easton or De Soto and also discussed the possibility of adding a tower on site at Fort Leavenworth.

Edwin Geer, KDOT communication system administrator, said leasing from KDOT was a possibility if a financial arrangement could be reached.

In regard to how many towers the county will have to build, Cranor, who has been heavily involved in the entire process, said, "I think we're going to have to rebuild Boling Grange, and it's going to be at our expense."

A vehicle struck the Boling Grange tower in November 2006.

"The main thing is that we're looking for the ultimate and optimum equipment to give us interoperability," Cranor said.

According to Tellefson, as the county proceeds with communications updates, the top priorities are to get MARC's tower and the Boling Grange tower up and running. He then said the commission must bring all county agencies on board at a later date and must also determine if the actual radios used will be made digital or not.

In other business Thursday, commissioners:

  • Heard a quarterly report from Anne DeShazo of the 1st Judicial District's Juvenile Justice Authority.

DeShazo updated the commission on the authority's various programs, spending and grant applications. In particular, she noted that this year one of the county's most successful programs, multisystemic therapy, will lose $133,737 currently drawn from the parental modeling grant procured by the state.

DeShazo said multisystemic therapy was a "research-based intervention program that teaches basic life skills that promote better decision making for the entire family." She added that since 2000 it "has been a program judges feel comfortable with and want."

  • Listened to a quarterly report by Leavenworth County Planning and Zoning Director Chris Dunn.

Dunn and commissioners discussed personnel matters as well as current and long-range projects scheduled in the department.

  • Approved, 3-0, repairs for two Public Works dump trucks at a total cost of $8,665, according to an estimate by public works director Bill Green.

Green said one truck needed a new transmission, and the other needed a new oil distributor.

  • Unanimously approved the low bid for a mowing contract for various county buildings from Ottertail Turf & Irrigation of Lansing at a cost of $465 per mow.
  • Signed a bioterrorism agreement covering the greater Kansas City area that was received from the county Health Department.

In business Monday, commissioners:

  • Authorized public works director Bill Green to seek bids on two new dump trucks not exceeding a total of $140,000 after trade-in.
  • Heard a quarterly report from Dan Schmitz, director of the county survey department.

Schmitz reported on all plats and surveys reviewed so far in 2007, current monumentation projects and budgetary concerns for safety equipment.

  • Heard a quarterly report from director of juvenile services Bob Doyle.

Doyle informed the commission on detainment numbers, department expenses, an inspection by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment in March and programs run through the juvenile detention center.

The commissioners were particularly complimentary of a highly successful truancy program that Doyle has, in large part, been responsible for.

For the 90 students countywide that the program has tracked, Doyle reported a 68 percent reduction in truancies.

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