Helping first responders - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Helping first responders

Madison (WKOW) -- The Dane County 911 Center's understaffing caused plenty of debate this year.

  But a different public safety issue ended up taking center state at the county's budget meeting Monday night.

  Carl Agnelly was there, and this is all about a proposed radio system for first responders.

  The biggest item by far is 30 million dollars to build a new communication system so first responders could talk to each other better in emergencies.

  At least 100 firefighters and paramedics were at the meeting to say all the new towers the county will add won't do them any good if the board won't pay for the actual radios.

  Paramedics and firefighters from across dane county flooded board of chambers.

  The issue:  a 30 million dollar plan to build new infrastructure, including information towers and computers.

  The new system would allow first responders to better speak with each other at critical moments.

  Dane County Executive Falk said, "so the police can talk to the snow plows, so the fire can talk to other providers no matter what jurisdiction may end."

  The problem:  these responders need to buy new radios to make the system work.

  Those radios could cost 5 to 10 times for than the current ones.

  "We can not afford to have a radio in each department's hands, Cottage Grove, Dane, the Mazomanies, the Stoughts, through out the county," said Glenn Linzmeier, President of the Dane County Fire Chief Association.

  This group asked board members to at least share in the cost of these radios.

  Some supported the idea.

  County Supervisor Eileen Bruskewitz said, "it is very important that we start the process of getting the radios and the infrastructure together they are integral."

  The county executive believed otherwise.

  Falk added, "county governement has never purchased for other communities the radios, for example in a police squad."

  But the head of Dane County's fire chief association said local department resources are strapped.

  He worries what would happen if the counties spends 30 million dollars on towers and there is no way to take advantage during fire floods or any other disaster.

  "When this happens, we have to ensure everyone will be able to talk to each other on this new system.  What we are afraid of is that there will only be a few radios in each department," said Linzmeier.

  The federal government is mandating first responders upgrade to those new radios by 2013.

  Along with the issue of the radios the baord will decide whether to add 9 new employees to the 911 center.

  The average dane county homeowner tax bill would increase just 2 and-a-half dollars.

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