Essex County may fund radio installation

— Essex County will look at funding the instillation and programming for new mobile radio units for county fire departments as part of the new radio system project.

The issue came up during the Feb. 11 Public Safety Committee meeting when Wilmington Supervisor and committee chair Randy Preston questioned Emergency Services Director Don Jaquish on whether instillation and programming would be covered by the county.

“We told the fire departments that they would be responsible for that cost for now,” Jaquish said.

Preston disagreed.

“It really makes no sense to try and put a new system in place and not have the radios installed,” he said. “There are some districts out there that in no way will be able to afford this and it would be crazy to have a new system with half of the departments not being able to use it.”

Preston and County Manager Daniel Palmer also debated the issue, with Palmer saying it was always the understanding that the departments would take care of the instillation costs, which could range from $400-700. Preston said he was always thought the county would pick that bill up.

“If it is going to be $700 a pop to have these installed and then programmed, that is going to come as a shock for each of the smaller departments,” Preston said.

Other supervisors agreed with Preston.

“From the start, I thought we were paying for all of the mobiles and all of the portables would be on the departments,” Chesterfield Supervisor Gerald Morrow said.

“It is a burden particularly on the smaller departments and what may end up happening is that the radios will be sitting there unused because they cannot afford to pay for them,” added Minerva Supervisor Sue Montgomery Corey.

“We could get into a situation where we have this system and half the towns can't afford to do it and they are waiting to raise funds through a bake sale,” Elizabethtown Supervisor Margaret Bartley said. “We will have people that can only use the old system and they will no longer be able to use it and they will be back to cell phone and pagers.”

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