Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

Local News

October 11, 2012

Despite radio bridge, agencies still having trouble

EFFINGHAM —     Despite the installation of a radio bridge to facilitate communication between separate radio systems, Effingham County sheriff’s deputies are still having trouble talking to police from other agencies.

    That was the message at Tuesday’s Emergency Telephone System (911) board meeting. County dispatch supervisor Tina Daniels told the board her deputies were still having issues, especially when they are out of their squad cars.

    “I’ve talked to several deputies who say the bridge isn’t working the way it’s supposed to,” Daniels said. “They either get traffic intermittently, or not at all.”

    Sheriff’s deputies have been complaining for months that they have not been able to effectively communicate with either Effingham city officers or Illinois State Police. Both the city and ISP use the new STARCOM radio system, while the county still uses an 800 megahertz system that has been in place for many years.

    Officials have been considering a number of options, including the installation of a “bridge” designed to facilitate communication between county deputies and other agencies. The bridge was recently tried out for two weeks, with what officials say were less than stellar results.

    Chief Deputy John Loy, a 911 board member, agreed that communication was still spotty.

    “Part of the time I can hear them,” Loy said. “Other times, I can tell when somebody keys a mic, but I can’t tell who it is.”

    Communications expert Randy Neal, who frequently advises the board on such issues, said the bridge worked fine for him, particularly during the day.

    Loy said most of the problems have been at night.

    “It sounds like you’re down in a barrel, or there’s an echo,” he said.

    While Neal said he could monitor the bridge at night in an effort to tweak the system, one board member doesn’t believe it’s worth the trouble.

    “I think you’re just spinning your wheels trying to put these two systems together,” said Jon Becker.

    Effingham police chief Mike Schutzbach said he has encouraged his officers to switch between STARCOM and the 800 MHz system.

    “Everyone has both 800 and STARCOM,” Schutzbach said. “But when you go to 800, it’s hard to hear the state police.”

    Loy said the bridge could work if it is attached to a STARCOM mobile radio.

    “The simple solution is if we can get a mobile STARCOM radio and reprogram it to see if it works,” he said.

    Neal said he could secure such a radio for a 30-day test. The board directed Neal to initiate the process.

    Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or at bill.grimes@effinghamdailynews.com.

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