Fire Territory Board OKs MOU With County Regarding Radio System

While the attorney for the Warsaw-Wayne Fire Territory had a few questions about the memorandum of understanding between the city of Warsaw, WWFT and the Kosciusko County Commissioners, it didn’t keep the Territory Board from approving to recommend it Tuesday to the Board of Public Works and Safety.

Warsaw Fire Chief Garrett Holderman said the MOU “is regarding the radio system between the county and us, the city. This MOU is for the city of Warsaw, Warsaw-Wayne Fire Territory agreeing upon the direction, guidance and plan set forth by the committee and County Commissioners. It states the terms and conditions, respective intentions and agreements and expectations.”

He said the county wants a MOU with all of the jurisdictions in the county using the radio system.

Kosciusko County Emergency Management Agency Director Ed Rock said, “Just to put it in perspective for you: When you guys signed up to work on the 800 megahertz system initially, you had to sign an MOU with the state of Indiana. This system is now basically owned by the Commissioners, and so all we are doing is filling in that gap so that everybody is on the same page. The Commissioners put into place a committee, which is pretty wide range, it’s not just the county. It’s all the different jurisdictions, representatives from different agencies and this is the guidance. This is basically saying we are going to abide by what is going on with that committee and what that committee has recommended to the Commissioners and then the Commissioners approve that this is the way we’re going to operate our system.”

Rock said they’re doing that to protect the system.

“Right now, there is no mutual aid being given to anyone outside of Kosciusko County. Flat nobody. And in fact, there are some businesses like Grace College that wanted to be on this system. And we said we’ve got to keep this clean to start with for that first year to make sure we don’t have any issues and if we do have issues, we know where to look to fix that issue,” he continued.

It’s the same thing they would do with the state, Rock said, only with the county.

Andrew Grossnickle, attorney for the WWFT, said the way he understood it was that the county owned the system that was going to be utilized by each of the political subdivisions in the county. He asked if the political subdivisions would actually own and secure the radios themselves that would be used.

Rock said the Commissioners were able to purchase portable and mobile radios for all of the jurisdictions in Kosciusko County. There were a couple that opted out and didn’t go that route, he said, but that was their choice.

EMS Chief Chris Fancil said the departments still owned the radios and Rock said, “Absolutely. The issue there is the ongoing maintenance. It’s going to be an expense.”

Grossnickle said the individual political subdivisions are responsible for maintaining, repairing and replacing the radios and Rock said, “Exactly.” The initial purchase of all the radios was covered by the county government, with some of the money coming out of the American Rescue Plan Act funds.

“We’re taking care of that initial cost because that’s the big one,” Rock said.

The other question Grossnickle had was in Section 3 that talks about the use of the units. Item 7 states, “The county has the authority, with recommendation of the (Political Subdivision Committee), to disable the subscriber unit(s) when evidence of abuse, misuse or other actions that are detrimental to the countywide radio system.”

Grossnickle asked how will the individual political subdivisions know of an issue, other than the fact their radios aren’t working. He asked who was going to notify the units.

“That’s a good point,” Rock said. “That  has not been flushed out, so I will take that back to the Committee and say, ‘Hey, what are our protocols here and how are we doing to follow through with this to make sure people know here’s why you got shut off.’”

Grossnickle said he didn’t see any other issues with the MOU.

Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer asked about the maintenance and management of the radio towers. Rock said that is the county’s responsibility.

Thallemer asked what representation did the Fire Territory have on the Committee. Holderman said firefighter Joel Shilling. For Warsaw Police Department, Brad Kellar is part of the Committee.

“So this (MOU) is primarily to discourage and prevent misuse of this very critical  communication,” Thallemer said.

“Expensive and very critical resource,” Rock agreed.

Thallemer said the MOU will certainly have to go to the Warsaw Board of Public Works and Safety for approval but the Board of Works would certainly want the Territory Board’s endorsement.

Board member Brandon Schmitt said he was thankful for the attorney’s input on the MOU and he was comfortable to make the motion to approve the MOU. Wayne Township Trustee Jeanie Stackhouse seconded the motion and it was approved 4-0.