1,400-foot-tall antenna should improve rural emergency communications

Friday, June 13, 2008

EUREKA SPRINGS -- Radio communication problems in the rural Eureka Springs fire district may be eased when the Eureka Springs Fire Department gets another antenna in that area.

The fire department's antenna at the police department is only 400 feet high, Eureka Springs Fire Chief Eddie Davis told the Western Carroll County Ambulance District (WCCAD) at its June 11 meeting. This new antenna is 1,400 feet high and can reach areas of the county the in-town repeater cannot.

Davis said the man who owns the antenna has agreed to sell it at half price. It will cost $1,800 to move and license it and $180 per month for rent and electricity.

"The city has offered to pay one-third, and the rural fire district has offered to pay one-third," Davis said. "We wanted to ask if the district would also pay one-third. That would be $60 per month each."

Commissioners asked whether the antenna would benefit the Emergency Medical Responders (EMRs) as opposed to city police and fire departments. WCCAD funds may not be used to benefit city residents, as they are not part of the WCCAD district and do not pay the 2-mill tax for it.

"I'd like to answer that," said Eureka Springs firefighter Mike Fitzpatrick. "I live at the far end of Rockhouse Road, on 221 near the Kings River Bridge. There are places where the radio works well. I hear it at my house, but then I get out on the road, and I'm out of range for 10 minutes."

EMR Alliance Coordinator Lynn Palmer agreed it would benefit the EMRs.

"It has been a problem. We have been unable to communicate," she said.

Davis said, "When you go across the dam area, in back of Hogscald it will be better. And going toward Berryville it will make a difference to communications down in the valley."

He said it would improve both Eureka and the EMRs' ability to respond to calls.

The commission approved the purchase.

Sandy Neighbors, the county's new Office of Emergency Management Coordinator.

Carroll County Judge Richard Williams introduced Sandy Neighbors, the county's new Office of Emergency Management coordinator.

Neighbors said she spent six years as a firefighter and has taught firefighting. She spent two years on an ambulance.

She said, "I like what I am hearing about the new repeater antenna."

She has been visiting fire departments and looking into finding grant money. Her office is in the Carroll County courthouse.

In other business, the commission:

* Heard the ambulance reports for April and May. In April, Eureka responded to 40 WCCAD calls out of a total of 99. Of those, Holiday Island had 26; Inspiration Point, 6; Hwy. 62 East, 4; Grassy Knob, 2; Hwy. 23 South, 1; Hwy. 62 West, 1; and Hwy. 23 North, 0. Three calls took more than 15 minutes, two due to distance and one routine transport.

In May, there were 51 calls out of 108. Holiday Island had 27; Inspiration Point, 7; Hwy. 23 South, 6; Hwy. 62 East, 5; Hwy. 62 West, 3; Grassy Knob, 2; Hwy. 23 North, 1. Six calls took longer than 15 minutes: two due to distance and visibility; three due to out-of-area transports; and one due to waiting for sheriff contact.

* Heard the financial report from new treasurer Mary Ann Schaefer. As of June 11, the total balance was $435,230, with $113,400 tied up in certificates-of-deposit.

WCCAD meets bimonthly. The next meeting is scheduled for Aug. 6 at 3 p.m. at the Grassy Knob fire station on Ark. Hwy 187.

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