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 New Dispatch System Could Cost $40,000

July 16, 2008 - New dispatch communication equipment for use by the Knightstown Police Department and local fire and emergency personnel could cost $30,000 to $40,000.

During a special meeting last Wednesday, the Knightstown Town Council was briefed by Knightstown Chief of Police Danny Baker on problems KPD members have communicating with their handheld radios. Baker told the council the radios don't work once officers get as little as a half mile out of town, which he said creates a potentially dangerous situation for officers.

Gary Green, owner of Tech Electronics & Communications in Richmond, told the council that the KPD should not be having those kinds of problems. He said if the range of their handheld units is that limited, there must be something broken.

To cure the problem with the KPD's handheld radios, Green recommended the town purchase a repeater, a device that receives electronic communication signals, then amplifies and sends them out. Green said a repeater, which could cost $6,000-$8,000 itself, would boost the effectiveness of KPD's handheld-to-handheld radio communication to about 100 percent.

Green also said the town needs to consider replacing the town's Motorola dispatch console, which he said was probably 25-30 years old and about obsolete, though still serviceable. He said a new console might be as much as $12,000.

"It's very important we get that console," Baker told the council, saying the current one has been struck by lightning several times. He said getting a new console was an important safety issue, noting that it is used not only for the KPD, but also to dispatch fire and emergency medical personnel.

Chief Bob Schaeffer of the Knightstown-Wayne Township Volunteer Fire Dept. told the council that fire and rescue workers would like their handheld radio capabilities to be enhanced as well. He said emergencies on Interstate 70 can sometimes take department members five to six miles outside Knightstown and that their radios don't always work well at that range.

Green told Schaeffer that the issue for the handheld radios is really one of antenna height, but that if fire department personnel are having difficulty talking to dispatch from the interstate, something is broken. Green also suggested that since there is a central dispatch for police, fire and emergency services, that consideration be given to purchasing a second repeater that would only be for the fire department and Southwest Ambulance Service.

Questions arose during the meeting about whether or not simply raising antennas to a greater height would improve the KPD and the fire department's handheld radio communications. Green said a higher elevation for the antennas would help.

"That's just the laws of physics," Green said. While there would still be dead spots due to the topography of the land, he said it would be "a huge improvement." Early on in last week's meeting, Council Vice President asked Green if he was there to try to sell the town equipment. Green said his company handles both sales and servicing.

"I'm not just out to sell something all the time," Green said.

"Are you the only entity in this region that does this?" council member Terry Guerin asked Green.

"There's very few of us," Green replied. He said there were other vendors in Indianapolis, and maybe one in Anderson.

"I just want to make sure that we follow whatever process we need to follow," Guerin said.

The potential cost was clearly a concern for council members. "We've only got X amount of money," Council Vice President Clyde South remarked at one point during the meeting.

Guerin, who is one of the council's two police commissioners, said the KPD has been trying to get donations to apply toward the cost of a new system. While he said the initial plan had been to apply for grants and use the donations for any local matching funds that might be required, he said the town's needs may be more immediate.

Baker told the council he is applying for a grant through the Henry County Community Foundation, which has an August 13 application deadline. He also said he planned to check to see if there is grant money available through the Department of Homeland Security.

Green told the council he needed time to sit down and think about what would be the most cost-effective, efficient way to do what needs to be done to meet everyone's objectives. He said he hoped to have a detailed proposal put together by the council's regular monthly meeting on Thursday, July 17.

Baker also advised the council at last week's meeting that the KPD needs to replace its dispatch recording system, which he said had not worked for more than a year. He provided information on a system that cost $8,900, or which could be leased for $2,100 a year, and council member Steve Nelson suggested Green include the recording unit as part of his proposal.

In other business last week, the council approved $13,000 annual salary for Richard Grizzell, who is retiring as the water and sewer operator, but will continue to work as a part-time assistant. Grizzell will also continue to receive the health insurance benefits that the town's full-time employees are eligible to get.

Thursday's regular monthly meeting will be held in the council's chambers at Knightstown Town Hall, 26 S. Washington St. The meeting starts at 7 p.m.


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