Thayer County commissioners okayed a project manager to assist them through installation of a communications tower backed by the state last week. The tower will aid emergency workers by linking the county to a state-wide interoperable public safety communications system.
“Our focus is regionalization,” said Southeast Nebraska Emergency Management Governance Board member B.J. Fictum. Fictum is the emergency manager for Saline County and was present at the meeting to introduce the system project to this county’s commissioners. “But we have some coverage problems – you (Thayer County) being one – and it would be nice to put in a tower here to solve that problem.”
Fictum, using a map to show coverage of the system, explained that anyone entering a coverage area could interface with the system in all types of emergency situations. “It’s basically a way to combine radio systems; making several radio systems sync,” he said. “The buzzword is interoperability.”
According to literature Fictum provided, one key component of the plan is the deployment of mutual aid base stations. Each base station would have control points at one or more local dispatch centers and the State Patrol dispatch center that serves the area of the base station coverage.
Because areas of Thayer County have coverage deficiencies, the commissioners decided five years ago to install a communications tower to rectify the situation, and although they secured a $99,000 grant from Homeland Security, nothing has been done due to the inability to secure land for such a structure. Fictum said a project manager would be able to tackle that problem at no additional cost.
But a communication tower to fit the county’s needs will most likely cost more than the initial grant secured five years ago, Fictum said. Hesitant to offer a price estimate, he said Saline County’s tower was $150,000.
“What we’re looking for today is if Thayer County is willing to proceed with this project and if so, accept our recommendation for a project manager,” Fictum said. The commissioners agreed to both.
Last month the commissioners okayed the installation of a repeater in Chester to improve communication in that area of the county. Currently the county has four repeaters located in different areas of the county. Fictum said other counties have been able to consolidate these sites into one or two bases once a tower is installed.
The state-wide communications project is made up of 57 towers across the state.