Fiscal court discusses sheriff’s concerns with upcoming change in PD’s radio communication 

Published 8:36 am Thursday, December 14, 2017

Can you hear me now?

A discussion about the cost to equip two emergency vehicles during Tuesday’s Boyle County Fiscal Court meeting turned into questions from the court about why the Danville Police Department will be switching radio frequencies when its new computer system goes into effect. 

Tuesday, Sheriff Derek Robbins told the court although the sheriff’s office had advertised twice, it hadn’t received any bites on bids to get necessary equipment for two K9 vehicles, and the bidding process closed on Dec. 1. 

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Robbins said the SO has been using L&W Emergency Equipment, which has the state contract, and recommended they go through them. He said it would cost roughly $23,038 for both vehicles. That cost would include lights and sirens, K9 cages, locking bed covers and heat alarm systems. 

“We have the computer systems ready for the car, but we can’t install them because we don’t know the software needed yet. That will be an additional cost,” Robbins said. 

“What’s the huge increase over the years attributed to?” Magistrate Jack Hendricks asked. He said he recalled fully equiping an emergency vehicle from scratch costing around $5,000-$7,000 previously. 

Robbins explained that in the past, it would be put in the budget to allow an extra $5,000 to equip a vehicle, which would allow for minimal lights and console needs. 

“Then we’d have to get a computer mount, then a computer, then a scanner, then a camera, then radar …” He said the SO would then come back asking for additional add-ons at different times. He decided to come before the court and ask for the full amount, to get the cars ready to hit the road. By the time all the changes were approved and made in the past, he said, then the vehicle was older and had to be updated. 

“Instead of coming back and asking for six different items and making it look like a limited amount of money, I’m coming in to ask for it all at once.” 

Hendricks then questioned if the vehicles will be set up to work correctly with the new 911 system, to which Bill Nichols — information technology director for the county — explained the computers already purchased will work with any Windows-based system and should be fine. 

“I understand we will have to get some new software, and the police department will go to another frequency. They will be able to communicate with you?” Hendricks asked. 

Robbins said no, the sheriff’s office will not be able to hear the PD’s traffic. 

“I’m going to talk to Tony about it,” Robbins said, referring to Danville Police Chief Tony Gray.

Robbins said a concern could be, for example, if a bank robbery is in progress and the police department describes the get-away vehicle over its new radio frequency, then the sheriff’s office won’t know if the vehicle drives by until dispatch relays the information. He said his concern with the city’s new system is that it’s taking them back 15-20 years to when he first started with the sheriff’s office. 

“When I started here, nobody could communicate with anybody. We don’t need to go back to that,” he said.

Hendricks said, “If we’re buying all this equipment, if it’s going to work with the new 911 center and the police department — even if we need to change our budget, we can’t have a situation where our two policing units can’t communicate.”

“That would be fodder for the advisory committee discussion,” Boyle County Judge-Executive Harold McKinney inserted. “I would think that would be the first item on the agenda.”

The advisory committee referred to by McKinney was recently created with the signing of a new 911 service agreement between Danville and Boyle County. The advisory committee is made up of representatives from local responder agencies and is capable of reviewing 911 center policies and budgets.

Last month, Danville City Commission approved purchasing a new computer-aided dispatch system (CAD) for $244,073, with the ability to get automatic locations on cell phones using GPS and towers, display emergency vehicle locations on maps and easier reporting tools for supervisors. 

Gray has previously said the new system will allow officers to access the CAD system directly instead of contacting dispatch to get information, improving efficiency. It will offer the same to fire, EMS and other agencies, who will also have access to the CAD screens, Gray said last month.

Robbins said he is already getting information from the radio company to see what it could cost for the sheriff’s office to become compatible with what the police department is doing. 

“I think that some of the thinking by the police department is that right now, everyone hears what’s going on on that specific law enforcement channel. They will still have the ability to communicate with us, EMS, the jail, anyone,” Robbins said. “The main issue is that the law enforcement agencies — they’ll have no idea what we’re doing and we’ll have no idea what they’re doing. We have to have the ability to switch to that channel to be able to talk. They would have to relay the information on calls on their channel to us. They can scan and hear our calls dispatched as they are dispatched — they will have the ability to do other things that we won’t.” 

Eventually, the court unanimously approved the cost to equip both vehicles. 

Detention center vehicle

Jailer Barry Harmon asked the court Tuesday to consider bids from two dealerships for a new four-wheel drive vehicle for the jail. Jack Kain Ford came in at $31,747, while Stuart Powell Ford came in under that at $30,950. 

“This is over budget, Barry. It’s over-budget $28,000,” McKinney pointed out. “Are these specs such that we could do with a lesser vehicle?”

“Then we still have equipment to go on top of that,” Treasurer Mary Conley said. 

“Why do we need it?” Magistrate Phil Sammons asked. 

Harmon explained the vehicle is used to get employees during bad weather, transports for state inmates, hospital visits …

“How often are we going to need it?” Sammons asked. 

“I don’t know … I don’t predict the weather,” Harmon said. 

Sammons asked that the motion be tabled until the court could have further discussion about purchasing a new vehicle. 

McKinney asked for a second on tabling, to which no one responded. “OK, I’m going to declare it died if we don’t have a second…” 

Magistrate Patty Burke then offered a second. 

“I’ll second it. But I also want to talk about it,” she said. 

“The motion is to table it,” McKinney said. 

As discussion still continued by the magistrates, Harmon told the court the jail would be short-staffed in the winter if they couldn’t retrieve some employees. Some magistrates agreed with the arrangement. 

“I’m more conservative than most of you I guess. We’ve made it for years and years without it,” Sammons said. 

“No, we haven’t. We used the Suburban purchased out of canteen money,” Harmon offered. “But we can no longer use that to get employees to work and back home.” 

“Why do we have to worry about employees?” Sammons asked. “Getting someone from work home? That’s their responsibility to get to your place.” 

“We’ve been in that situation here,” McKinney said. “Where we have had to operate and someone can’t make it in. Like nurses to hospitals, etc.” 

Sammons said, “I understand a nurse or a doctor, but employees coming into work at the jail? And we gotta go get him? I’ve never heard of that. I disagree with that.” 

McKinney reminded the court of the motion to table the discussion, and the second. “All in favor of tabling it?” 

Sammons responded, “Aye. Aye!” No one else voted either way.

“I guess we table it, we had one vote,” McKinney said. “Now, when do we want to put it back on the agenda?” 

The item will be added to the next regular meeting, which will be held on Dec. 21, along with some alternatives the court said it would work on offering. 

Humane Society changes

As two longtime employees at the Danville-Boyle County Humane Society near retirement, Boyle County Fiscal Court has approved a new hire and two promotions at its Tuesday meeting.

Director Dan Turcea and animal control officer Debbie McCowan are planning their retirements for early next year. John Hambel will be promoted to animal control director beginning in February, and Candi Taylor will move into the role of animal shelter manager. Both currently work at the shelter in other roles. 

James Goode, a current employee of the recycling center, will become animal control officer in January. 

All were passed in unanimous votes. 

“I look around the room today and I see a lot of people from the Humane Society here,” McKinney said. “We go to conventions and meetings, and our relationship with the Humane Society here is the envy of the state. We very much appreciate you.” McKinney’s comments were met with a round of applause. 

According to Paige Matthews, executive director of the humane society, they are still in search of a part-time PetSmart coordinator. This person is responsible for the overall logistics, supervision of the day when animals are taken to the pet store in Lexington every other weekend, and sending out the schedule during the week, as well as organizing volunteers and other duties. 

Matthews says closer to the first of the year, DBCHS will be hiring a new office/adoption coordinator as well, which is also a part-time position. 

In other business

• Treasurer Conley said the Mercer County Fiscal Court had approved the Brandstetter Carroll contract, a consulting company hired to help with the jail’s overpopulation problem, “with the stipulation they must help us apply for grant money, which was a request from a citizen at the (Joint Jail Committee) meeting.” 

Jailer Harmon explained “Joe Citizen” was present at the meeting earlier Tuesday, and even told the court he contacted the company and was informed they would help with grants. 

McKinney said the Boyle Fiscal court would also add the stipulation in, but independently check the claim out through Brandstetter. “If it’s an issue, we’ll bring it back. If not, we’ll include it in.” 

The motion was unanimously approved. 

• Conley also updated the court on the new Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, set up to help Brandstetter Carroll work on recommendations to improve the jail. She said the Joint Jail Committee voted to make the council a legal group. 

“We’ve got participation of everyone, including the Department of Corrections … We worked through Deputy Commissioner James Erwin’s office …” Conley said. She said Director of Facilities Kirstie Willard will directly participate at least monthly with the committee. There will be 22 participants on the committee, Conley said, which will “take some organization.” 

Hendricks asked about judicial participation on the committee, to which McKinney said he discussed it with a circuit judge who said he would not allow it. 

The first meeting of the committee will be noon-1 p.m. Jan. 12 in Boyle County.