Commissioners, radio committee discuss comm. system maintenance

May 25—As the Payne County Board of Commissioners and radio committee iron out the details for its upcoming emergency communications system, a disagreement has emerged over how to fund its $425,000 annual maintenance.

In the joint meeting on May 15, District 1 Commissioner Zach Cavett cast doubt on whether each agency truly needed the number of radios they requested.

Multiple fire departments, for example, asked for 25 handheld units. Cavett said he was in a volunteer fire department years ago, and fewer than 10 people would respond to fires.

"My thought is, as the county, I don't care to maintain or keep inventory of these radios," he said. "We're just going to buy them and transfer them to that department, and then they will be yours to do with, yours to replace, yours to maintain, everything. I don't want nothing to do with them after this."

Stillwater Emergency Management Deputy Director Troy Choplin said the county doesn't have strong disaster capabilities for communication, and it needs to be prepared for a worst case scenario.

"If we don't we're going to get caught, and then we won't have communications and then we have a disaster within a disaster," he said. "Right now with what we have in the county, we still don't have enough radios to handle everybody that would be here, and our system dang sure can't handle it."

While Cavett agreed that the new system is important for worst case scenarios, he believes each agency should pay a percentage of the maintenance costs based on its number of units.

Several committee members expressed their frustrations over this latest hurdle as that was not agreed to when the process began.

"It'd be fair to everybody," Cavett said.

If the county has to continue to foot the bill, it may have to present a sales tax to the citizens, District 2 Commissioner Chris Reding said.

"We're not looking at a real big sales tax. We're looking at one as small as we can keep it and still maintain the system," Reding said. "I really believe that the citizens of Payne County — when they're presented with the facts and they're presented with how this is going to improve their lives, their safety and their well-being — would not be hard to sell a sales tax to."

With the system having a target date of January 2025 to go online and Motorola covering one year of maintenance, the two sides have about 2.5 years to figure this out.