Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

June 18, 2013

Board holds off on radio issue

Bill Grimes Daily News
Effingham Daily News

---- — Effingham County Board members would like a little more time to discuss a massive purchase of radio equipment for the sheriff's department — a purchase that would reportedly solve the department's lingering interoperability issues.

The board voted unanimously to table the proposed purchase until a special meeting set for 10 a.m. June 25 — the day before a Motorola deal is set to expire.

Chairman Jim Niemann said board members wanted further discussion before making a financial commitment of such magnitude.

"We're talking about a quarter-million dollars here," Niemann said.

Niemann said the option recommended by Motorola would cost the county $233,097, a savings of about $34,000 from regular pricing. In exchange, the county would receive mobile and portable radios, a consolette, installation and programming.

Sheriff's deputies have been complaining for several years that they cannot effectively communicate with officers from other agencies under the current system.

Niemann, a former Effingham city police officer, said a solution to the communication issue is crucial for officer safety — and because city and county police routinely cover for each other throughout the county.

"We've tried a number of fixes," the chairman said. "The bridge seemed to work the best, but that was still just a temporary fix."

Radio professionals developed a bridge between city and county frequencies earlier this year that was recently disconnected.

"We have a problem we have to fix," Niemann said.

The problem came about after Effingham city and Illinois State Police switched to Motorola's STARCOM system, while the county stuck with a 800 megahertz system.

Motorola representative Dave Lander told the board that the new system would be beneficial for the county.

"This will give the county a lot of options they don't have today," Lander said.

Niemann said, "If we are going to do this, we need to go all the way."

In other action Monday, the board passed its annual prevailing wage ordinance, but not without protest from several board members who feel the state-set prevailing wages are too high for this labor market.

"I think it's a burden to the taxpayers," said board member David Campbell.

Illinois mandates that preset prevailing wages are paid to workers on any public project. State's Attorney Bryan Kibler said the county would be putting itself at financial risk if it did not pay prevailing wages.

"We have to have some form of prevailing wage," Kibler said. "If we don't establish something, we could be subject to fines by the Department of Labor, and be subject to criminal prosecution.

"We can do this under protest, but my legal recommendation is that it's too costly not to do anything," Kibler said.

Also Monday, the board voted 5-4 to raise the permit fees for a private septic system from $50 to $100. Niemann was joined by board members Lloyd Foster, Mike DePoister and Doug McCain in voting against the increase.

The board also voted Monday to change the polling places for Douglas Township precincts 8 and 9 from Sacred Heart School to the Effingham County Health Department.

The board also approved a number of appointments Monday, including:

Agricultural Area Board: Cletus Bloemer, Ronald Voelker and Todd Wachtel; Fine Arts: Wilma Krueger and Joan Lutz; Board of Review: Charles Braasch; County Farmland Assessment Review Committee: Joseph Thoele, John Beckman and Lyle Westfall; Airport Commission: Phil Toops; 911 Board: Jon Becker and Joe Holomy; Housing Authority: Bernice Clagg and Billy Genaust; 377 Board: Joan Garbe; and 708 Mental Health Board, Joe Adams and Gail Garbe.

The board also passed resolutions honoring track and field athletes from St. Anthony and Teutopolis high schools; and Sacred Heart, St. Anthony, Teutopolis, Altamont and Effingham junior high schools.

The board also honored Mardell Sheehan and Kathy Bailey on their retirement from the Health Department, and Matt Adams and Troy Davis for 25 years of service to the county in the highway and sheriff's departments, respectively.

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