E-911 working on new tower

—Saratoga tower went down in July 2017 storm


Howard County - Technology is a great thing, especially when it helps local emergency personnel communicate with each other. But what happens when one of the “cogs” in the system goes out?
That’s what happened last July when the Saratoga tower went down during a straight-line wind storm.
Emergency Management Coordinator Darrell Knecht explained the tower was used when it was installed around 1992-93. “It was part of the 9-1-1 project and was 180 ft. tall. At the time it was set up, it was a repeater site for fire and law enforcement frequencies.”
Then around 2010, the radio project, a total communication upgrade, was completed, which added EMS (Emergency Medical Services and EMA (Emergency Management Agency) frequencies, as well as a microwave dish for enhanced communication in the county. This meant the tower was operating at full capacity. 
“When we did the communications project in 2010, thank goodness we put equipment in place on each town’s water tower. The purpose was so law enforcement had hand-held capabilities in all parts of the county, and it enhanced fire paging. That was our salvation when the Saratoga tower went down,” Knecht explained.
The tower at the law enforcement center in Cresco is not able to reach the far corners of the county for communication, so a repeater is needed to help get the information out.
The E-911 board has had a goal of putting up a new tower sometime in the future, but Knecht stated, “Then this blew down and accelerated that project.”
Now the board is working on getting a tower installed to replace Saratoga. It will be installed at Davis Corners, which is nearly centrally located in Howard County, and is also at a higher elevation than Saratoga tower. It will also be over half again as tall, at 300 ft.
The equipment in the Saratoga tower building is only seven years old and still usable. It will be transferred to the new site, once it has been purchased and the archeological and engineering studies have been completed.
The total cost of the project is around $750,000, which includes everything, including licensing, studies and replacing the dish. Knecht said, “We are obviously hoping when it goes to bids, it will come in less than that, but it is probably pretty close to the cost.” The tentative goal is to have it up and running before next winter, possibly in 10 months-time.
The Emergency Manage-ment Coordinator noted the county got a reasonable settlement from insurance for the downed tower, and with funds already set aside for the project, it might pay for the new tower. Otherwise E-911 would have to borrow some money.
“Law enforcement is probably affected the most with communication shortfalls in certain areas of the county,” Knecht explained. And fire is affected somewhat. The biggest drawback is you have to physically choose the repeater you want. It still gives you good, solid communication—it’s just not as seamless.”
Before the end of the year, things should be back on track to smoother communication around the county once the new tower is up and running.

Cresco Times

Phone: 563-547-3601
Fax: 563-547-4602

Cresco TPD
214 N. Elm Street
Cresco, IA 52136

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