Dispatch equipment fried from power outage

Staff reporter

Marion County communications equipment took a hard hit Sunday and Monday when power outages caused surges in electrical lines, damaging sheriff's dispatch equipment.

Marion County Communications Director Michele Abbott-Becker reported Monday to Marion County Commission that the life line or "brains" of the 911 system was severely damaged Sunday morning during a power outage.

The 911 calls are going through the sheriff's department administrative lines. The backup center for dispatch, located at Hillsboro, was utilized, Abbott-Becker said, but was a "hassle" regarding placement of personnel and the continuation of providing services.

The generator that is used for the county jail building where the dispatch office is located, produces "dirty power," Marion County Sheriff Lee Becker said. Eventually battery back-ups run down.

The generator should automatically kick on when the electricity goes off. The power surges Sunday morning where the electricity went off and on several times, confused the automatic switch on the generator which required the generator to be manually turned on but in the meantime caused damage to the equipment.

A new generator that has been purchased by the county in 2007, still hasn't been installed and Abbott-Becker wanted to know if she should put more money in the old generator until the new generator is installed.

Commissioner Randy Dallke said he was seeking concrete and electrical bids and it would be another 30 days before it could be installed.

Abbott-Becker also commented that more lighting provided by a generator was needed in the jail building. She said she was unable to work in her office during the ice storms because there wasn't any lighting powered by the generator in that part of the building.

Cost estimates will be obtained and presented at a future commission meeting, Abbott-Becker said.

In other business:

— Abbott-Becker also informed the commission about complaints regarding a controlled burn that went out of control.

The incident occurred this past week in southern Marion County when an out-of-control fire burned down a ravine where approximately 2,000 tires had been tossed. Complaints from Harvey County authorities were made regarding fire and smoke. Abbott-Becker said county compliance officer Bobbi Strait was notified and responded.

Dallke said he was at the fire and the smoke in that area was not from the Florence area fire.

He agreed that during the first two or three hours it was drastic but had become minimal afterward.

Abbott-Becker said the county's resolution addresses agricultural burning and requires those who burn to have a means of fire suppression. She said fire department personnel said there was no fire suppression at the scene of the Florence fire. Abbott-Becker said she would like to see the resolution clarified.

She also reminded the commission and residents that the county dispatch office does not have any authority to "permit" people to burn fields. The dispatch office only is used as a means of contacting authorities of the controlled burns.

— The commission approved and signed a check for $5,140 to Hett Construction for the final phase of renovations at the sheriff's office. The county held $200 until after the inspection.

Engineering consultant Tony Rangle had contacted the state fire marshal's office for a final inspection but no date had been set.