Central dispatch to lease communication towers

Rent costs $1 for 25-year lease

OSCEOLA COUNTY – Meceola Central Dispatch will have more control over two radio towers in Osceola County beginning Aug. 1.

At its meeting July 17, the Osceola County Board of Commissioners approved a lease agreement with Meceola Central Dispatch for two towers located in the southern and northern areas of the county. Meceola will lease the tower and equipment on the south tower from the county. They also will lease the county’s equipment on the north tower. Both will be leased for 25 years with a cost of $1.

The south tower is owned by the county and currently is being used by dispatch, police, EMS, fire and Emergency Management departments. The north tower is privately owned, and county entities lease space to place equipment on the tower.

Commissioners hope the lease will help solve communication issues that have come about in the past when the south tower needed repair. There was no single authority as to which entity should contract with the vendor to fix the tower, -whether the Osceola County Sheriff’s Department, Board of Commissioners, Emergency Management Department and fire services.

As a result of the lack of communication, a variety of different vendors have worked on the tower and unnecessary complications have been created within the county for many years.

After the board tabled the decision at its July 3 meeting, commissioner Mark Brock and emergency management director Mark Watkins brought a list of concerns to the 9-1-1 authority board. Concerns included whether Meceola would cover snow removal, lawn mowing and other maintenance issues on the tower when the lease was signed.

“Mark (Watkins) felt that most of the things on the list were being addressed and he is comfortable with (the lease),” Brock said.

The lease also was revised to include the equipment on the north tower as well as the south tower, with an efffective date of Aug. 1. Previously, there was no effective date on the lease.

Commissioner Tammy Stoner was the sole commissioner to vote against the lease, saying the county should hold on to the towers for future use.

“I will not support handing over the towers. Knowing what’s coming, we’re going to need towers and we’re going to have to buy one,” Stoner said, alluding to wireless Internet access for county residents.

Mecosta County Board of Commissioners approved allowing Meceola to lease their two towers in that county at a meeting on July 5. Laurie Smalla, director of Meceola Central Dispatch, said she expects the lease to solve communication issues and help both counties. All other dispatch entities in the state have control of their tower infrastructure, she added.

“I think this will be a good thing for both counties,” she said. “Our business is public safety communications, and I think this is a long time coming.”

In other news, the commission heard from Emergency Medical Services Director Ed Nettle about the progress of the project to establish new EMS bases in the county. Hooker and De Jung, the contracted architectural designer for the project, is in the process of creating a standardized base dseign.

The board also authorized the purchase of new jackets for the EMS staff and a cook stove for the Commission on Aging mealsite in Tustin.

The next meeting of the Osceola County Board of Commissioners will be at 9:30 a.m. on Aug. 7 at the Osceola County Courthouse.