Cumberland Times-News

Local News

March 16, 2013

Mineral officials asked to address problems with state emergency radio system

Dead spots in some parts of county

KEYSER, W.Va. — The president of the Mineral County Firefighters Association has requested that the county commissioners raise awareness in Charleston about problems with the state radio system.

During the commission’s Wednesday public meeting, Chad Lindsay said research has been done on the radio system that determines it won’t work in some parts of the county. The radios don’t work at the Wiley Ford fire station and elsewhere in the county there are dead spots, he said. The state is out of money and is not willing to put money into fixing the system, said Lindsay.

“I just hate throwing dimes at it and trying to limp it together when it’s not fixing the big picture,” said Lindsay.

Lindsay also asked that the commissioners help protect the fire levy money from being used to fix the problems with the state radio system. The company that is working on the radio system and the 911 center are asking for levy money to fix it, according to Lindsay.  

“That levy money was graciously given to us by the citizens to be given to the departments for our personal protection, which we need to better assist them, not to fix the state radio system that was shoved down on us,” said Lindsay. “We don’t have a problem changing systems; we did it years ago when we went to the VHF (systems).”

The state radio system is used as a second means of communication, and money from various grants was used to obtain it, according to County Coordinator Mike Bland. Each fire department vehicle has a mobile unit and a portion of them have portable radios.

“One of the problems I had with this was the fact that we were going to have to maintain the VHF system for alerting, that we couldn’t alert off of the state radio,” said Bland. “So we were looking at the need to maintain two radio systems.”

A decision needs to be made on whether to fix the problems with the state radio system or to look at the VHF system, according to Bland.

“If there are major improvements needed in the VHF system, there is no way we have enough money to work on both of them,” said Bland.

In order to fix all the issues with the state radio system, another tower would need to be constructed, according to Bill Hentosh, Office of Emergency Management director.

“The departments cannot afford to pay for the system to try and do these upgrades like they are wanting done,” said Lindsay.  “Our expenditures have more than tripled in the last several years.”

Constructing a new tower would cost at least $1 million, according to Lindsay, who indicated he would be willing to wait for however long it takes to receive grants for the tower.

If between 10 and 12 agencies are on the radio at one time, the system will max out, said Hentosh.

Hentosh approached the association and the ambulance authority about helping to fund an analog repeater project that would improve a channel on the state radio system.

“What I’m proposing is a minimal fix,” said Hentosh, who noted the tower would be the ultimate fix.

Bland questioned the difference in performance between the digital radio system and the VHF system, which was previously used.

“The different aspects of each system works better than the other,” said Lindsay.

With the digital radio system, all aspects of communication for emergency service will be united, if the issues are fixed, according to Lindsey.

“It’s (digital system) a good idea. It’s a little bit elaborate for what we do, but it will work,” said Lindsay.

The VHF system doesn’t have very many channels and is affected by weather. However, the digital system that is used now is worse in the weather, according to Lindsay.

“Every storm we have had the system’s went out,” said Lindsay.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at eblaisdell@times-news.com.

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