County Looking to Acquire Different Radio System for Sheriff's Department

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Published on June 17 2013 10:52 pm
Written by Greg Sapp

The Effingham County Board Monday tabled a decision on whether to enter a lease-purchase agreement with Motorola for a communication system for the sheriff's department.  The system is supposed to fix the current inability of county deputies and city officers to hear each other when they're out of their vehicles and using portable radios.

Motorola officials and County Board Chairman Jim Niemann said the issue came to a head after a radio being used to establish a "bridge" between city and county officers was disconnected by another official who said the radio was being used without authorization. 

Niemann, a former city officer who said he's experienced the lack of ability to communicate with county deputies, spoke with Motorola officials who presented the proposals considered Monday.

There are three proposals, but the goal would be for Motorola to supply the County with enough portables and mobiles including repeaters to improve portable communication.  Motorola is also offering a trade-in on radios the County has in stock.

Niemann said the County would pay $34,750 in hardware costs and $17,568 a year to utilize the Motorola towers.  The new equipment would allow the County to talk with the City on the Starcom 21 system now used by the City and the State.  It would also allow the County to continue using its high-band system to communicate with other emergency service agencies not on Starcom 21.  The old 800 megahertz system would also still be an option for the County until it gives up the ghost.

Niemann explained that the County would be allowed to pay a lesser amount the first two years of the agreement and then would increase its payment for the hardware once public safety bonds are retired on the County Government Center.

When asked for his input on the communication equipment being replaced in his department, Sheriff John Monnet said, "It would fix the problem (of the lack of interoperability)."

The problems of a lack of communication began when the City went with a Starcom system and the County tried to establish a high-band system.

Some Board members had questions Monday about whether to proceed with the transaction so the matter was tabled until a special session the morning of June 25.  The move allows the Board members to review the figures and would still beat a price break deadline offered by Motorola by one day.  It would also coincide with a previously-scheduled Board Committee of the Whole meeting, meaning no additional per diem expense for the special meeting.

Monday's meeting also brought a statement from retired judge Jim Harvey regarding Resident Circuit Judge Kimberly Koester's decision to replace Lupita Thompson as Effingham County Public Defender.  Harvey said he doesn't agree with the decision and has questions about why Judge Koester made the move.  He said Thompson was in his experiences with her was a competent attorney and also was fluent in Spanish, which he said saved the County thousands of dollars in expenses as she was always willing to serve as a translator whether it was her case or not.

The decision to appoint the Public Defender rests with the Resident Circuit Judge.  Niemann said he has also voiced his support for Thompson in letters to Judge Koester about the matter.

Also Monday, the County Board authorized the abatement of the County's portion of property taxes for Southeastern Container as an incentive to keep the firm in Effingham; approved moving the Douglas 8 and 9 polling places out of Sacred Heart Parish Center and into the Effingham County Health Department offices at Sacred Heart's request; approved the prevailing wage rates for contracted work done for the County with board member David Campbell voting No; allocated $1,000 in hotel/motel tax funds for a shooting event in July featuring actor James Drury whose most famous role was as "The Virginian" on television in the '60s and '70s; and approved a purchase of service agreement that would allow receipt of a grant to provide public transportation services on Saturdays.

The County Board heard from County Treasurer Steve Dasenbrock that the due dates for paying your county property tax bill this year are August 9th for at least the first installment and October 11th for the second installment.  Dasenbrock said $42,594,114.98 is being extended in taxes this year; a 3.37% increase over what was actually sought last year.  What is extended is not always exactly what is levied for taxes.

(RETIRING HEALTH DEPARTMENT EMPLOYEE MARDELL SHEEHAN IS RECOGNIZED BY COUNTY BOARD CHAIRMAN JIM NIEMANN AT MONDAY'S BOARD MEETING)

The Board honored a number of junior high school and high school track athletes for reaching the state meets; honored Mardell Sheehan and Kathy Bailey on their retirements from the County Health Department; and recognized Highway Department employee Matt Adams and Sheriff's Department Process Server Troy Davis for 25 years' service to the County.  The Board also discontinued Board member participation in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund; changed the hourly standard for County employees to qualify for IMRF coverage to 1,000 from 600 although the 600-hour level will remain in place for existing employees; doubled the private sewage fee to $100; and established guidelines for the County Farmland Assessment Review Committee.

(RETIRING HEALTH DEPARTMENT EMPLOYEE KATHY BAILEY WAS RECOGNIZED BY BOARD CHAIRMAN JIM NIEMANN AT MONDAY'S COUNTY BOARD MEETING)

Board members approved two transportation improvement projects...$7,000 between the County and Township as their share of the cost of replacing a bridge on 300th Street, one mile north of Moccasin, and $9,600 between the County and Township toward the cost of replacing a bridge one mile southwest of Gilmore on 400th Street.  Also, a series of appointments were approved...Cletus Bloemer, Ronald Voelker and Todd Wachtel to three-year terms on the Agricultural Area Board, Wilma Krueger and Joan Lutz to three-year terms on the Fine Arts Committee...Charles Braasch to a two-year term on the Board of Review...Joseph Thoele for a one-year term and John Beckman and Lyle Westfall for two-year terms on the Farmland Assessment Review Committee...Phil Toops for a three-year term on the Airport Commission...Jon Becker of Altamont Fire Protection District and Effingham Fire Chief Joe Holomy on the 911 Board with Holomy replacing retiring EMA Director Russ Thomas for three-year terms...Bernice Clagg and Billy Genaust to three-year terms on the Housing Authority...Joan Garbe for a three-year term on the 377 Board...and Joe Adams and Gail Garbe to three-year terms on the 708 Mental Health Board.

(SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT PROCESS SERVER TROY DAVIS WAS RECOGNIZED BY BOARD CHAIRMAN JIM NIEMANN FOR 25 YEARS' SERVICE TO THE COUNTY AT MONDAY'S COUNTY BOARD MEETING.  MATT ADAMS OF THE HIGHWAY DEPARTMENT WAS ALSO RECOGNIZED FOR 25 YEARS' SERVICE, BUT COULD NOT ATTEND MONDAY'S MEETING)