County looks to upgrade communications

Nov. 9—In the film classic "Cool Hand Luke" the late Strother Martin once said, "what we have here is a failure to communicate."

For the Daviess County Council, that same type of issue has surfaced and it is going to take some money to fix it.

During its meeting the council approved a $72,995 appropriation to install a new and improved radio repeater system.

"Several years ago, they put together a system with repeaters in the county. They have had problems with gaps in the service. With the combined dispatch the operations board wanted to alleviate those issues," said Daviess County Council President Matt Meredith. "It's important that emergency responders are able to always contact dispatch wherever they are in the county. We saw that some of that equipment was not really what we needed and they are fixing that."

The fix will involve a lot of new equipment. Mike Dyer with Electronic Communications Systems told the council they cannot fix the problems with the equipment in place.

"We can't make it work. I have tried. I can guarantee this microwave system we are proposing will work," said Dyer. "You don't pay a dime until we get it installed and operating properly. This process will take six months."

The communication issues for the county go beyond equipment. There are also some staffing problems in the 911 call center.

"This is an issue we have throughout the county," said Meredith. "Private sector jobs are more enticing than what the public sector pays, so we have had some really qualified individuals leave because the dollars aren't there. We are looking into that. We are getting some people trained but that is an issue."

Because of the staffing issues, Daviess County E-911 Director Julie Berry has asked the council for an additional $5,000 for overtime pay.

"I would like to be able to offer overtime instead of comp time," said Berry. "We need it because of short staffing. We have two in training. We are down four positions."

The council also approved $3,691 for some new computer software that will move dispatchers from using flip charts in medical emergencies to heads up computer information.

"I am looking to purchase some software for dispatch," said Berry. "We are using some of it for training. This will benefit ems, police, and fire."

"I sat in on a meeting where they were working on response on medical issues and saw where they were working off of flip charts. It was unwieldy," said Meredith. "With the technology that is available now it was a no-brainer to update it. When it comes to responding to an emergency with your family or my family, this is a no-brainer. We want the best system available."

In other business, the council approved a series of financial adjustments. One of those was for an additional $10,003 in overtime for employees in the Daviess Superior Court.

"Strictly speaking my employees are not hourly employees," said Superior Court Judge Dean Sobecki. "There are requirements when they are doing trials and other things where they have mandatory overtime. They work until the work is done. This is just a way of compensating a lot of extra work."

Other changes included additional money to cover overtime in the sheriff's department, $14,500 to pay a nurse out of grant funds in the health department, another $1,000 for part-time pay in the probation department, and $3,590 for extra help for building maintenance.

The council approved an additional appropriation of $30,022 to pay for additional work that was done during the installation of a new air-handling system at the security center.

A pair of requests totaling $6,323 of internal transfers were approved for the prosecutor's office to purchase a new copier and computer equipment.

The council also approved an $80,000 additional appropriation for fuel for the highway department and an internal transfer for the airport to move $9,114 from repair and maintenance to gasoline and diesel oil.