Among the crowd of people at the county 2017 budget hearing Monday issues surrounding a new emergency radio system to precedence.
When the floor was opened to questions and comments, Richard Meisinger asked whether the county’s new 800 MHz radios will work with other emergency systems in the county. Commissioner Randy Dallke answered that the sheriff’s office would maintain two radio systems for the time being. He added that the county might offer help by loaning money to other departments so they can buy their own 800 MHz radios.
Peabody police chief Bruce Burke said each radio costs between $2,500 and $3,000.
Commissioner Lori Lalouette said the county had to start the transition somewhere.
Meisinger asked if the county is getting any kind of a grant to help with the purchase.
“Nothing,” Dallke said. “It’s outright.”
He added that some fire departments aren’t interested in being able to talk to other agencies.
Marion city administrator Roger Holter said Marion city officials calculate it would cost $122,000 to equip the police and fire departments with 800 MHz radios.
“Just like you, we face the same tax lid,” Holter said.
Without a repeater in place, the models the city has tested don’t work well, Holter added.
A repeater is a device that receives a radio signal and forwards it. The new 800 MHz radios require a different repeater from the one that works for existing systems.
County clerk Tina Spencer said that the county will have meetings with other entities before launching the 800 MHz radios.
Dwight Flaming, Dwight Wernli, Gordon Pendergraft, Daniel Stuchlik, and Dianne Novak also gathered for the discussion.
Before opening the floor to questions and comments, accountant Scot Loyd and Dallke began explaining why a five-mill increase was needed.
Loyd said this year’s budget was one of the more challenging budgets he’s done.
“We don’t know how long the tax lid will be there,” Loyd said. “It might be one year, it might be 10 years.”
Loyd said commissioners needed to look at the county’s future needs.
“There’s a lot of different increases, but road and bridge, employee benefits, and the ambulance, those are the big ones,” Loyd said.
EMS budget was increased $376,386, an increase of $352,578 went to Road and Bridge, and a $310,339 increase went to cover an anticipated jump in employee health insurance costs.
Dallke said ambulance service for Marion has lost employees and commissioners are trying to fix the problem.
“With that being said, we’ve already hired two people full-time,” Dallke said. “We plan to add two more, and maybe a couple part-timers.”
Commissioner Dan Holub said the personnel to be hired, three paramedics and an EMT or AEMT, will staff one ambulance.
Holub added that the county is beginning the use of 800 MHz radios.
“The sheriff needed another deputy, not just on the road but for other duties,” Holub said.
Lalouette said the county has issues with road and bridge that more money had to be put in the budget to provide needed services.
Holter said the city puts its budget proposal online for easy viewing by the public and encouraged the county to do so as well.
“It’s don’t help people trying to plan their budgets to not know what we’re planning,” Dallke said.
Holub reminded the group that the county is only one of over 40 taxing entities in the county.
Dallke said there would be no more questions and commissioners approved the budget unanimously.