Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

October 8, 2013

Static over radio issue may finally be ending

911 board clears way for county to join STARCOM system

Bill Grimes
Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM — The long-running debate about radio interoperability between area law enforcement agencies appears to be over.

Tuesday, the Effingham County Emergency Telephone System (911) Board agreed to a tentative budget that includes $30,000 in user fees for the Motorola STARCOM system. If Effingham County Board approves the budget as presented Tuesday at its November meeting, the 911 board will be paying about $2,000 per month in STARCOM user fees for both the Effingham Police Department and Effingham County Sheriff's Department.

The 911 board had voted against paying those user fees at a 2008 meeting. While city police absorbed those fees to remain on the STARCOM system, Sheriff John Monnet balked at paying those fees. Consequently, county deputies remained on an 800-megahertz radio system. Eventually, several county deputies complained they were unable to effectively communicate with other agencies in potentially dangerous situations.

"A lot of things have changed since 2008," Monnet said. "It's not sensible that we not jump on the bandwagon at this time."

Monnet said his initial objection to joining STARCOM centered around the user fee issue.

"On the one hand, we had a radio system that was paid for," the sheriff said. "The other system would require us to pay user fees for many years."

But Monnet said ensuring the safety of his deputies in remote areas was a major factor in his decision to go with the not-so-new system.

"We tested STARCOM once, and it didn't work as well as we thought it should," he said. "But they have added a tower and our (radio) repeaters will be compatible with STARCOM."

Under the tentative budget, the $30,000 allotted for STARCOM fees will not cause 911 to run a deficit budget, though the surplus won't be as high as last year's. The board projects that income of $613,400 will more than offset projected expenses of $608,605, for a surplus of $4,795. Last year's surplus was $26,444.

The budget also includes a $20,000 increase in payments from 911 to both the city and county for use of their dispatch facilities. That means 911 will be paying $85,000 per year to both the city and county, up from $65,000 last year.

Also Tuesday, the board received an update on the efficiency study being conducted by Intertech.

"The report is coming along," board member Norbert Soltwedel said. "We're a little behind schedule, but we are getting there."

Soltwedel said Intertech representatives have made the first of three site visits to check out the current system. One of the goals of the efficiency study is to determine the continued feasibility of operating dual dispatch centers.

Also Tuesday, the board directed member Joe Holomy to oversee the maintenance of two generators that are used in emergency situations.