The Pryor Times

January 23, 2014

Firefighters need new frequency

Staff Writer
Cydney Baron

PRYOR, OK — A split between Mayes Emergency Services Trust Authority and the Mayes County 911 Center means a division of property.

A radio frequency currently used by MESTA and area firefighters broadcasts from a tower owned by Grand River Dam Authority. Equipment on that tower is owned by Mayes County 911.

Upon the commissioners’ decision to separate the center from the direction of MESTA, property and equipment must be divided.

While the 911 Center owns the property and equipment, MESTA has rights to use the tower. Rather than requiring MESTA to purchase new equipment, the 911 Center, via the commissioners, opted to sell MESTA the equipment for $4,000.

As MESTA has rights to the frequency, it could require all fire departments to vacate the frequency.

“Rumor is we have to be off that frequency by March 2,” said Firefighter Association Chairman Jason Miller, the date reflecting the end of the 90-day notice of termination between MESTA and the 911 Center. “We have a frequency to go to, but we don't have the necessary equipment in location.”

“Rick [Langkamp, MESTA director] said they own rights to the GRDA tower and we don't have the right to be there,” Miller added.

As a solution, the association discussed purchasing new equipment to give the firefighters a grand total of three tower locations at the association meeting in Chouteau Monday night.

“We have to do something anyway, so we may as well use the opportunity to improve our coverage area. Some places have had dead zones, this will fix that,” said Miller.

Miller said the grand total for the three proposed towers would be $20,128. Additionally, a small building for storage would be necessary near one of the proposed towers, costing roughly $750. The expense would be divided between the 13 fire departments, costing each $1,606.

“Rural Water District 2 said they are more than happy for us to use their water tower at no cost to us. They just said to glue the antenna on since we can't weld it,” said Chouteau Fire Chief Ted Key of the south tower location.

“I think it's time for us to define ourselves, move forward and take care of things,” said Miller. “This gives us the opportunity to do that, and we would have ownership of it so we couldn't be kicked off again.”

“Why are we being burdened with the cost of putting towers up? If the commissioners made the decision to separate MESTA and the 911 Center, shouldn't they have to be responsible? “ said Frank Kotoff from Diamond Head Fire Department.

Miller reiterated this move would give the firefighters ownership, providing stability and showing the community they are handling problems internally.

“This gives us the responsibility to make decisions down the road, our job is to make sure all 13 departments can communicate,” said Miller. “This will cut out the ambulance frequency, so we won't be kicked off to make room for medical situations.”

After discussing the technicalities of implementing the proposed new tower locations, Miller said the group is facing March 2 with many unknowns.

When it came time for a vote, Diamond Head abstained and the remaining 12 departments voted to approve the proposal.

Langkamp was not present for the meeting but provided comment Tuesday.

“Everybody agrees it's best not to have the same frequency,” said Langkamp. “So it's not a matter of me kicking them off that frequency March 2, it will just work better if they have their own.”

In regard to extending the deadline past March 2, Langkamp said nothing had been asked of him.

“We all work for the county to serve the public. We have to do right by the people,” Langkamp said.

In the course of the meeting, firefighter Joe Brown said, “I heard straight from the horse's mouth, he plans on moving his dispatch out of the 911 Center and into his own building,” in reference to Langkamp.

When asked about that allegation Langkamp said, “No, not true. He must have misunderstood something.”

Langkamp added that a decision to move MESTA dispatch out of the 911 center would not be his to make, but would be up to the MESTA board.