Next phase of communication upgrade should eliminate glitches 1/7/2014

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Next phase of communication upgrade should eliminate glitches

By Rupert Howell
While many of Panola’s first responders and emergency personnel are experiencing better radio communications than ever before, problems continue to exist between agencies.

Emergency Management Director Daniel Cole told county supervisors Monday that  some of the current problems will be alleviated when three new control consoles are purchased and installed at the E-911 dispatching station next to the jail for an approximate cost of $193,000.

Cole told supervisors that the E-911 board had met and approved which consoles to purchase. He explained that E-911 money would be used to pay long-term financing for the units purchased under state contract price.

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In October supervisors authorized the purchase of new radios to equip county departments including sheriff, road, rural fire, garbage, and emergency management to the tune of approximately $600,000. That figure was decisively less than the state contract price of over $1 million according to Cole.

“I haven’t heard any complaints with the radios,” Cole told supervisors adding, “We have had hiccups with the current consoles.”

“We haven’t found a ‘dead’ spot in the county,” Road Manager  Lygunnah Bean chimed in, adding his approval of the new radios.

“That’s something we never had,” Cole added.

But Cole, Bean and Panola County Sheriff Dennis Darby all revealed that communication problems continue to exist, mentioning a recent storm in the northwest corner of the county and a crime spree that involved two municipalities and the sheriff’s department.

During that storm that toppled trees, some on roadways, Cole said the road department was “chasing ghosts.” The sheriff’s department would call in the downed tree and use inmates to help clear the roads. Road department crews would travel to the area and the job would be completed, tying up labor that could be used elsewhere.

Cole later explained that during a crime spree involving gunfire, kidnapping, car theft and arson, firefighters were called to extinguish a blazing pickup in the middle of the night, not knowing it had been stolen and the former occupants had fired at police officers in both Sardis and Batesville.

Bean suggested a “roundtable discussion,” between agency heads, both municipal and county, as well as supervisors and municipal officials to better utilize current communication systems, “…Where everybody will feel good about it.”

Cole revealed that some municipalities have systems that will not communicate with the county’s new radios and added that Batesville Police Department’s system is encrypted so that not even their fire department has access.

A meeting is currently set for Thursday, January 9 at 5 p.m. at the Emergency Management Building in Sardis.