Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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911 Call Center Hoopla, not good for public safety

One of the major lessons learned from the tragedy on 9/11 was that in times of high emergency, from the command center to the first responders and everyone in between, radio communications are key. Because of the recent turmoil caused by the County Commission and its Chairman, Jody DuPree, Doug Brown, the one person in Columbia County, who has the skill, training, and ability to keep all communications equipment between the Combined Communication Center, Lake City and Columbia County Fire Departments and Police, in sync and operational, is now unsure on whose shoulders falls this indispensable responsibility. (Photo - The User Group)

Sheriff Hunter has been the management leader of the Combined Com. Center Project and Chairman of the User Group since the County took over two years ago.

At 9:00 am yesterday morning, the Combined Communication Center User Group met for their weekly meeting, minus Sheriff Hunter, who has been chairing the group for the past two years. No one volunteered an explanation of his absence or if he was going to continue chairing this group or finally turn over the reins to the Combined Communications Center Director.

"I need some guidance."

The conversation traveled around the table and when it stopped at the County's Chief radio technician, Doug Brown, he told the group, "I need some guidance."

Radio Tech Doug Brown
Radio technician extraordinaire, Doug Brown, speaking. Mr. Brown's qualifications are here.

Mr. Brown explained that he was contacted by the LCPD to do some radio work. 

He said, "Do I do that? I really don't know what to tell them because of all the hoopla that's going on." 

Zack Mears, the City's IT guru: "I know you've been giving us a lot of freebies in the past. But if we need to pay to program radios - we need to pay to program radios."

Mr. Mears explained that there had been a lot of changes in the LCPD.

Mr. Brown said, "I don't want to commit to anything because I don't know where my lines are drawn."

Mr. Mears responded, "The lines are changing daily for all of us."

There was a brief discussion among some of the group members and there appeared to be a general consensus that things go out of date as soon as they're spoken about. 

Mr. Brown, a retired military man and extraordinarily skilled and efficient told the group, "All I need is guidance. I'll do whatever needs to be done."

Mr. Brown has the experience and can do whatever needs to be done.

Asst Fire Chief Armajo
Asst. Lake City Chief, Frank Armajo

Assistant LCFD Chief, Frank Armajo, told the group, "I had fourteen new radios programmed yesterday. Because of all the - I didn't want to bother you anymore, because I don't know what's going on, and you're not on our vendors list."

Assistant Chief Armajo described the zones in the new radios and when he got to Zone 3, which was to be a shared channel, he said that Channel was not programmed. 

Assistant Chief Armajo said, "I know this committee wanted everyone's radios to be on the same channels." 

Mr. Brown discussed compatibility issues between the radios and the dispatch centers. 

Mr. Mears, "We have to get this tidied up." 

The City Fire Department had folks come in from Jacksonville to program their new radios.

Assistant Chief Armajo said that he would prefer to have Mr. Brown do his radios.

Mr. Brown, "As long as we understand, I'm not authorized to make any decision."

The County Manager weighs in

County Manager Dale Williams: Fire is clearly a member of the Combined Dispatch Center and we're going to program the radios. 

Early yesterday evening, County Manager Dale Williams spoke with the Observer.

He asked, "How long has this been an issue?"

The Observer explained that it appears to have been an issue since Commissioner DuPree's 12th hour meeting and the County Commissions' "walk on" discussion and actions at the end of the last Commission meeting.

County Manager Williams: "Unless there is more to it than you are telling me, I can tell you what my answer is. My answer is that fire is clearly a member of the Combined Dispatch Center and we're going to program the radios. 

County Manager Williams continued:  "The County has spent a lot of money, including fire in the programmatic elements of Combined Communications. We spent a lot of money on the City Police and we spent money to remove the Police. We have always paid for fire in that configuration."

The Observer:  "I know one thing that the world learned from the World Trade Center Incident, is that the radios have to work. If there needs to be a billing procedure developed between the county and the city..."

County Manager Williams:  "Police is a whole different matter.  If the police department needs help programming those radios, I feel that we can probably work something out.  But fire should not even be part of that."

(updated: 12:17 pm - Mr. Brown's qualifications)

This work by the Columbia County Observer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

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