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Brooke, Ohio counties ink agreement for emergency radios

WORKING TOGETHER — Tim Ennis, left, president of the Brooke County Commission; and Tim McCormick, president of the Ohio County Commission; signed an agreement aimed at improving communications between Brooke County’s emergency 911 center and emergency departments. (Photo by Warren Scott)

WELLSBURG — On Tuesday the Brooke and Ohio county commissioners entered into a five-year agreement aimed at improving radio communications between Brooke County’s 911 call center and emergency departments.

The agreement calls for the Brooke County Commission to pay $1.7 million over five years for radios and related equipment to be purchased by the Ohio County Commission for emergency responders serving the county.

The Brooke County Commission also will pay $7,040 per month for maintenance of the equipment for the first year.

The emergency agencies will contribute in later years according to the number of radios they have.

County Commissioner Stacey Wise said funds set aside by the commission for 911 improvements will be used to pay Ohio County and there are no plans to raise the county’s emergency 911 fees.

A four-year levy approved by voters in April will raise $570,296 per year for the 911 center’s day to day operation.

The commissioners noted they have been working with local emergency officials to address recurring communication problems between the 911 center and first responders for some time.

They said last week the move was recommended by Scheeser Buckley Mayfield, a Uniontown, Ohio consulting firm hired by the commission to seek a remedy to the long-time issue.

“We want the best communications for our first responders and believe this is the best and most appropriate way to go,” said Commission President Tim Ennis.

County Commissioner Stacey Wise said through the agreement, Brooke first responders also will have access to the West Virginia Statewide Interoperable Radio Network through a tower in Ohio County.

Participation in the network is expected to boost coverage in areas of Brooke County’s south end where reception was hindered by terrain.

Tim McCormack, president of the Ohio County Commission, predicted “dead spots” won’t be a major issue in the future.

“It’s a superb system. We’ve spent a lot of time and money on it,” he said.

McCormack was joined at the meeting by Lou Vargo, Ohio County emergency management director, who noted incidents in which Ohio County emergency crews were assisted by those in Brooke County.

“These communications are going to make it seamless now, which is going to be wonderful,” Vargo said.

In addition to Ohio County officials and Scheeser Buckley Mayfield, the commissioners acknowledged the assistance and support of Bob Fowler, former Brooke County EMA director; Bill Elcessor, a former sheriff’s deputy who oversaw the county’s 911 center; Christina Fowler, the center’s currrent director; Andy Nickerson, the county’s ambulance director; and the heads of local emergency departments for their efforts and cooperation.

Wise noted there’s still more work to be done, with upgrades planned for the 911 center itself.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com.)

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