Communication to be better in HC

Howard County Sheriff Mike Miner, Lime Springs Fire Chief Tony Roberts and Howard County Emergency Management Director Darrell Knecht stand in front of the water tower at Lime Springs where repeaters have been installed. At left is the repeater equipment on the water tower.

Emergency services in Howard County will soon be able to communicate easier since the $801,000 radio project will be completed in a few weeks.

Lime Springs Fire Chief Tony Roberts explains, “We used to have to use the hand held to talk to the truck, then the truck talked to Cresco. With the repeaters, it will take out the middleman.”

The county was able to get new radio equipment and put repeaters, or radio amplifiers, at each community—Lime Springs, Chester, Riceville, Elma, Protivin, Saratoga and Cresco—through a grant from the Elma Fire Department from USDA. The 911 commission will pay $150,000, with the rest taken care of with the grant.

The repeaters in Lime Springs, and most other towns, are mounted on top of the water tower, with a building to house other supplies underneath.

The equipment will help each entity (Howard County ambulance, fire departments, sheriff, police and emergency management) communicate back and forth . . . even with the portable radios.

Sheriff Mike Miner says, “This will bring us in compliance with the narrow banding requirement that all emergency entities need to do before 2013.”

Miner went on to say the old system still had some tube radios. “A year-and-a-half ago the ambulance radio went down, and it had to be sent to Waterloo for repair because they don’t make those parts any more. Much of the equipment is from the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s.”

Emergency Management Director Darrell Knecht comments, “The project started to upgrade antiquated equipment.” That equipment includes the base radios, which are 30-years-old. “Now, wherever you are standing in Howard County, you can talk with the dispatch center at Cresco.”

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