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Floyd County moves forward on connecting to state public safety radio network

By Bob Steenson,

The Floyd County Board of Supervisors approved two contracts with OmniTel of Nora Springs for installation and services for the new countywide public safety communications system being implemented in the county, and also discussed the potential hiring of a new county environmental health officer/zoning administrator/911 signs administrator at the board meeting Monday morning.

OmniTel will be providing two dual-circuit 45 Megabyte fiber optics connections as part of the new county $5 million communications system.

The first, which is scheduled to be installed by July 1, will provide a connection between the Floyd County Law Enforcement Center Dispatch Department and the Iowa Statewide Interoperable Communications System (ISICS) radio tower located at the Iowa State Patrol headquarters along Highway 65 south of Mason City.

The connection will allow the county dispatch center to begin using the ISICS system for radio communications for law enforcement, fire and other public safety services in the county. Not all the new radios and pagers have arrived or been programmed as needed, but those that are ready will begin to be able to use the new system.

Installation and setup price is $5,000 and the connection will cost $1,000 per month for the first year, with a 2.5% cost increase for each additional year of the five-year contract, then continuing on a year-to-year basis.

The second contract was for another 45 Mb dual-circuit fiber optic line that will connect the county dispatch center with a new 300-foot communications tower to be built west of Rockford. That tower, which will also be connected to and part of the ISICS network, is expected to increase radio reception for portable and mobile units in the western part of the county.

Installation and setup cost for that part of the service will be $20,000, and the service price will also be $1,000 a month for the first year, with an additional 2.5% cost increase for the remaining four years of that five-year contract, then continuing on a year-to-year basis.

The start date for that contract is listed as Jan. 1, 2025, but officials at the supervisors meeting Monday were unsure if the tower will be installed and ready for operation by then.

OmniTel had originally presented both parts of the project in one contract, but the Board of Supervisors had asked the company to divide the Mason City connection and the Rockford tower connection into separate contracts.

Each connection will have redundant links to maintain service if one or the other link fails.

Also at the meeting Monday, the board authorized Chair Mark Kuhn to work with Floyd County Board of Health Chair Dr. Lisa Kapler to possibly choose an applicant to make an employment offer for a joint position.

The county environmental health officer/zoning administrator/911 signs administrator reports to the county Board of Health for the environmental health officer duties, to the Board of Supervisors for the zoning administrator duties and to the county 911 Commission for the 911 sign administrator duties.

Kuhn said they had several good candidates for the job formerly held by Jeff Sherman, that he had resigned from effective the end of March.

Kuhn said he had helped interview two of the candidates and Supervisor Dennis Keifer had helped interview two of the candidates, using the same set of questions and a scoring list developed by County Auditor Gloria Carr.

The Board of Supervisors also:

• Discussed whether to keep including an item on the agenda every week for updates on the Law Enforcement Center and courthouse update project.

The project, which started construction in November 2019 but experienced delays due to the pandemic, materials shortages and other issues, is substantially complete, but there are a few minor items still on the list to be finished.

Kuhn said he isn’t willing to call the project complete until everything is done, but he wondered if they needed to discuss it each week since they frequently talked about the same items.

The board made no formal decision on whether to keep it on the agenda, but it is up to Kuhn as the chair to set the meeting agendas.

• Agreed to double the price paid to the law firm that advises the county on human resources issues. Noting that the fee had been the same since 2014, Ahlers & Cooney of Des Moines asked that the flat fee paid per month increase from the current $750 to $1,500, or else go to hourly billing of $340 or $300 per hour for either of two attorneys who usually handle the county’s business.

Auditor Carr said Floyd County had been paying much less than other counties for some time and the monthly fee was probably still better than paying hourly.

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