Bill Grimes Daily News
Effingham Daily News
---- — A long-standing radio communication issue may soon be solved after the Effingham County Board voted Tuesday to authorize the spending of more than $230,000 on new radio equipment.
In Tuesday's special meeting, the board voted 6-3 to give Motorola $233,097.25 for a set of APX7000 dual band portable radios, APX4500 mobile radios and an APX7500 consolette. The price also includes installation and programming costs.
The board called Tuesday's meeting because sale prices on the package expired today. A Motorola representative has said the county would be saving about $75,000 by taking advantage of the sale.
Motorola representative Dave Lander told the board Tuesday the new system would provide more than 95 percent coverage to county deputies. The current 800 megahertz system has been blamed for putting county sheriff's deputies in potentially dangerous situations by not allowing them to communicate with officers from other agencies. One sheriff's deputy said Tuesday the current system only provided about 30 percent coverage, with less coverage away from the 800 MHz tower located between Effingham and Teutopolis.
Lander said the the new radios would enable deputies to communicate with both Effingham city and Illinois State Police via the STARCOM radio station the latter agencies adopted several years ago.
"I think it is the right solution," Lander said. "It accomplishes everything the board is trying to do. The coverage is there."
Board member Rob Arnold wondered aloud why it had taken so long to find a solution to the inoperability issue.
"It's utterly insane that this is taken so long," Arnold said.
The board voted 6-3 to accept the Motorola proposal. Under terms of the deal, the county will pay $39,181.74 per year for seven years. The first payment won't be due until one year after the system is installed, a process that is expected to take several weeks.
Board members who voted against the deal said they don't believe the county board should be telling office holders how to spend their money.
"It's not a bad idea, but I think we should have voted to provide the sheriff with a specific amount of money and let him decide which system he wants," said board member Karen Luchtefeld, who along with Jeff Simpson and Lloyd Foster voted against the measure.
Chief Deputy John Loy asked the board what would happen if the county went on STARCOM and Altamont police did not.
"We depend on them for a lot of coverage in the western part of the county," Loy said. "If we go to STARCOM and Altamont does not, it creates another operability issue.
"There is no easy solution," Loy added.
"If we don't have what they have, it's kind of useless," said Altamont Police Chief Alan Heiens.
Arnold said he would push the board to make sure the county and Altamont police will find some way to effectively communicate.
"We will find a way to make it happen," he said.
Sheriff's deputy Darin Deters, one of the most vocal proponents of improved operability, said the new system is a good idea.
"I believe it will address our concerns," Deters said.
Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or email@example.com.