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By NORA MABERRY-DANIELS
The Village of St. Joseph has decided to upgrade its communication equipment.
During the Nov. 13 board meeting, the board decided to purchased eight VHF analog radios from Barbeck Communications.
The cost will be $7,081.30.
The purchase includes radio, a repeater, installation and a license. The repeater will be placed on a pole near the Boy Scout lodge on Lincoln Avenue.
The village has long debated which type of radios to purchase.
During previous discussions, Trustee Roy McCarty said he felt like cell phones were not sufficient for the St. Joseph Public Works Employees.
Originally, McCarty said he would like the village to purchase an 800 trunk system.
A trunk system is a complex type of computer-controlled two-way radio system that allows sharing of relatively few radio frequency channels among a large group of users.
The trunk system could cost $1,968 per radio with an ongoing monthly charge of $10.42 per radio.
The village would need eight radios for a total of $15,744 plus the monthly user fee.
Currently, the only public works departments which use the 800 trunk systems are Champaign, Urbana, the University of Illinois, Parkland and the Champaign Highway Department.
Many fire and police departments including Tuscola, Savoy, Mahomet and Rantoul, use the trunk systems. Other villages have their public works employees just use their cell phones.
McCarty suggested in October that the village purchase digital radios from Barbeck Communications.
For five radios it would cost the village $7,768.
The village would also pay a $10.42 per month per radio fee to METCAD.
Previously, Greg Abbott from METCAD addressed the St. Joseph Village Board.
Abbott told the board that there is a number of area public works operations that use the METCAD system but none of them are from as small of a community as St. Joseph. He said St. Joseph using the system would allow better communications between first responders in case of a disaster.
"We would be able to communicate directly with the fire department," he said. "As well as any other first responders in the area."
Abbott said the system is costly.
"The radios are $1,500 to $3,000," he said. "But it has proven its worth time and time again."
Abbott said METCAD is more advanced than many area communication systems and even systems throughout the country.
The board asked Abbott for his recommendation about digital vs. analog radios.
"If you were to buy digital radios today you would be better prepared for whatever the FCC may throw at you in the future," he said. "It is just a matter of time before the FCC mandates everything to be digital."
Trustee Tami Fruhling-Voges asked Abbott if, in the event of a large disaster, what the benefits of using the METCAD system would be.
Aboott said the benefit would be for smaller emergency not the larger emergency because with a large emergency state and federal resources would be available. Abbott said the ability to communicate with village officials would be beneficial in the event of a fallen tree, an ambulance needing to be rerouted or an another small scale emergency.
Fire Chief Rusty Chism told the board that federal authorities do not have to be on the scene of a disaster for 12 hours. He thought being able to communicate with local officials for the first 12 hours would be beneficial.
Abbott said St. Joseph is the first village to examine using the METCAD system.
Fruhling-Voges said she appreciated the information and she knew METCAD was the best of the best.
"We are fortunate to have this in our area," she said. "I am concerned and I am just trying to weigh the justifications. We are the first village our size to look at this for our public works."
Fruhling-Voges said she feels using the METCAD system was still more than the public works department in St. Joseph needed.
"Can we afford it, should we afford it, do we need this much of a system right now?" she said.
Trustee Aric Silver asked during previous discussions why the public works employees could not use their cell phones. He said the village could pay for part of their use each month.
McCarty and Public Works Superintendent Mike Peters said that was not feasible due to safety issues.
Mayor B.J. Hackler said he thought the village needed 8 radios to communicate. This would include radios for the part-time public works employees.
Trustee Tami Fruhling-Voges said she does not feel the village needs state of the art communication equipment for public works employees.
Fruhling-Voges said that most public works departments use cell phones to communicate and while she was open to radios she did not want to spend $10,000 on a communication system.
"My belief is that our village is not unique in anyway that we should use taxpayers money for something that is just not needed within the village," she said.
McCarty said he thought digital radios would be better because they would be able to use them if the power went out.
"I can live with radios," Fruhling-Voges said. "I can see the advantage over cell phones but why do we want to go over kill, as an elected official we have to justify spending tax payer money."
Trustee Aric Silver said he wanted more details about what the village would need. The original plan was to purchase five and then eight.
Trustee Bob Rigdon said he did not want to be on the MEDCAD system. He thought it would be best if the village purchased analog radios and purchased a repeater antenna with a warranty.
"I want what is best for the community," he said.
"I want our own system," she said.