Sheriff pursues new communications tower



January 3, 2018 - 12:00 AM

Here’s a quandary: An Allen County deputy is involved with a case in Savonburg, and needs assistance, but when he clicks his radio, he’s met with silence.
Savonburg and several other locales in the county are “dead spots,” where radio communications with emergency responders is iffy at best, sometimes non-existent.
To address the issue, Sheriff Bryan Murphy proposed to commissioners Tuesday construction of a 500-foot-tall tower, an investment of $700,000, south of the county landfill.
An option, costing about $300,000 more, would be four towers of 240 feet each in the county’s four corners.
With either approach, dispatches would originate from the 911 center on North State Street and then be repeated.
The tower in Iola, 160 feet tall, was replaced a few weeks ago at a cost of $225,000.
A repeater has been in use since the 1980s on a tower near LaHarpe. Its coverage is limited.
Commissioners favored the one tower, but before signing on the dotted line proposed pursuing grant opportunities as well as getting other public agencies, such as fire, medical and police, to help fund the purchase.
“I think they should be interested,” said Jerry Daniels.
The tower also opens up the possibilities for commercial use by cell phone companies.
No time frame was placed on a decision, although with the proposal now on their table commissioners gave no indication they would shove it aside.
“It’s a safety issue,” Daniels concluded.

MURPHY also asked commissioners to consider shifting retirement plans for county officers from KPERS to Kansas Police and Fire, a part of the statewide retirement program that generates greater retirement income.
Officers would see personal contributions increase from 6 to 10 percent for each paycheck.
“Better retirement would be good retention and recruitment tools,” said Daniels, a former law enforcement officer. Under KPF retirement is available at age 50 with 25 years of experience, Murphy noted, unlike KPERS that provides full retirement when age and experience total 85 years.
Murphy said there would be some roll-over costs to the county, but he hasn’t delved into particulars far enough to say what they would be. “Let’s find out before we go any further,” Daniels said.

IN OTHER NEWS, commissioners:
— Unanimously made The Iola Register the county’s official newspaper. Legal notices also will be printed in the Humboldt Union.
— Learned GPS signs have been placed on the walking-biking trails between Iola and Humboldt, including those on the old Lehigh property, to aid emergency responders.
— Were told $676,000 was collected from ambulance charges in 2017. That leaves about $331,000 to come from the county’s ambulance fund to meet an annual contractural payment of $1,007,000 to Iola for operating the service. Just under 3 mills — raising about $420,000 — is levied countywide for the fund.
— Garner will place traffic counters on old Highway 169 south of Iola before U.S. 169 is closed later this year for an extensive upgrade. Measurement will be taken again during construction to determine usage increase, with hopes KDOT will make financial allowance for maintenance.
— Approved a $125,000 payment to complete the county’s $180,000 grant for construction of G&W Foods’ new grocery in Iola. The store will open Friday.

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