County, Luling lock horns over ‘combined dispatch’ proposals
By LPR Staff
Distribution of radio and dispatching equipment under a Federal Homeland Security grant was the source of heated discussion and harsh words during the meeting of the Caldwell County Commissioners Court on Monday morning.
Earlier this year, in an effort to ensure that all the county”s emergency service first responders (f
ire departments, police departments and EMS units) could communicate, the County purchased and distributed a number of radios and dispatching consoles. The equipment was distributed to first responders at the county”s volunteer fire departments, the Caldwell County Sheriff”s Office, the Lockhart Police Department and the City of Luling.
However, because Luling”s emergency services run on a VHF communication system instead of an 800 mHz system, the lion”s share of the equipment remained in northern Caldwell County. That decision, as well as the placement of two dispatching consoles at the Lockhart Police Department, sparked a heated debate between Commissioner Tom Bonn, Caldwell County Sheriff Daniel Law and Luling Chief of Police John Cochran.
“When this conversation started, [the City of Luling] was not in the financial position to switch to an 800 mHz system,” Cochran said. “We still aren”t in that position. But we never said we didn”t want the equipment.”
Cochran maintains he received a call after the dispatching equipment was installed at the Lockhart Police Department notifying him that the equipment was available for use, but he would have to send his dispatchers to Lockhart to use it.
“If it”s supposed to be our equipment, why wasn”t it installed in Luling where we can use it,” he said. “I”m not going to send my employees to Lockhart to do their jobs.”
Law, on the other hand, believes the second console installed at the Lockhart Police Department was, and should have been, earmarked for the dispatchers at the Sheriff”s Office.
“We only have one console now,” Law said. “And it cripples our dispatchers. There are only so many things a dispatcher can concentrate on at one time, and when you”re trying to coordinate EMS, patrol officers and sometimes DPS or city officers, it”s hard for our dispatchers to keep track of that.”
Under the current system, the dispatchers at the Sheriff”s Office cannot share monitoring duties because there is only one dispatching console available.
Law also noted that while county agencies discussed the interoperability project, representatives from Martindale and Mustang Ridge were not involved. Therefore, he said, it was not really a “countywide” discussion.
Bonn, who was chosen by the Commissioners” Court to head up the committee and administer the Homeland Security funds, fell under heavy verbal fire during the heated discussion. However, he maintained both his composure and his position that the decisions made about the equipment were in the best interest of the entire county.
“I was given a directive by the Federal government to [increase interoperability] in Caldwell County,” he said. “If I have offended, I apologize, but I put the equipment where it will do the most good and fit the budget.”
Commissioner Charles Bullock came briefly into the fray at the defense of his constituency in Luling.
“This all seems to go toward the idea of a combined dispatch for the county,” Bullock said. “If the City of Luling is against that, why force it upon them? Why didn”t we distribute the equipment in a way where we could work to meet everyone”s needs?”
Although no resolution to the disagreements presented itself on Monday, County Judge HT Wright suggested that the committee reconvene to discuss options to equalize the distribution of the equipment.
In other business, the Commissioners opted to pass a resolution banning the use of certain fireworks during the holiday fireworks season.
The resolution, which works in conjunction with the county”s current outdoor burning ban, makes it illegal to purchase, sell or detonate “missiles with sticks,” or “rockets with fins” in Caldwell County. The resolution is the same that the Commissioners have passed for the last several fireworks seasons in an effort to curtail the number of wild fires sparked by improperly detonated fireworks.
In brief County news:
The Commissioners approved the purchase of four Dodge Chargers, at the cost of approximately $18,600 per vehicle, for the Caldwell County Constables.
They held a public hearing to discuss imposing a speed limit of 30 mph on County Road 200. The proposed speed limit will come before the Court for a vote later this month.
The panel awarded a contract to Garage Door Services of Lockhart to replace the sally port doors at the Caldwell County Jail.
They discussed a contract with Ehrig Scrap Metal to remove sheet metal from the County-owned gravel pit.
They paid bills in the amount of $173,980.28, including $20,575 for indigent legal defense, and a final payment of $5,062.05 to Milam County for outside inmate housing.
The Caldwell County Commissioners Court meets on the second, third and fourth Monday of each month at 9 a.m. in Room 100 of the Caldwell County Courthouse.