Commissioners to explore 911 upgrades

WELLSBURG — The Brooke County Commission has hired an engineering consultant to study ways to improve communication between the county’s first responders.

County Commissioner Stacey Wise said the commission has approved up to $13,000 for Scheeser, Buckley and Mayfield of Uniontown, Ohio, to develop scenarios to upgrade the county’s emergency 911 system.

Wise said the commissioners, Sheriff Larry Palmer and members of the county’s 911 advisory board visited several sites where emergency radio communication is hindered by terrain.

“It was really enlightening to get a picture of all of the issues,” she said.

Palmer said firefighters and others responding to emergencies in hollows and other areas are accustomed to radio signals being blocked by nearby hills. He noted three strategically placed repeater towers have helped to alleviate the problem, but not entirely.

Palmer said in addition to geographical issues, the county’s first responders are using a 20-year-old communications system.

He said it would benefit from the use of a 50-foot radio tower overlooking the county, but its signals have interfered with the frequencies of departments and businesses in the Pittsburgh area at a time when many entities are jockeying for space on radio bands.

The sheriff said the consulting firm will help county officials to determine the most feasible solutions, including the possibility of simulcasting radio frequencies used by neighboring counties.

Palmer was asked whether a merger between the Hancock and Brooke county emergency 911 dispatch centers still is an option. He said it’s not been discarded but will be among scenarios considered by county officials.

In other business, the commissioners announced a car cruise benefiting the Make A Wish Foundation has been rescheduled for the third time because of weather. A joint effort by the commissioners, as individuals instead of a board, and the Ohio Valley Mopar Club, the event will be held from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday outside the Dollar General Market on state Route 2. Admission is $3 and it will include music by a disc jockey, sandwiches prepared by County Commissioner Jim Andreozzi and dash plaques for the first 50 participants.

Anthony “Butch” Rotellini, a member of the Ohio Valley Mopar Club, said last week’s car cruise, which didn’t involve the commissioners, raised $290 for A Special Wish Foundation, a separate organization.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com.)