Letter: Supervisors should get behind digital radio project

Lee County Board of Supervisors,
This letter is to ask for your support for the proposed Lee County radio system. This system will provide coverage to all Lee County Fire Departments, Law Enforcement agencies, and Lee County EMS Ambulance. This system will also give us the interoperability to communicate with mutual aid resources outside of our county and state, of which, in many cases, we don’t have interoperability with. Our current antiquated and ineffective system does not meet our needs to operate safely and to bring first responders to our citizens’ emergencies. As the Assistant Chief of Wever Fire & Rescue, Firefighter/EMT with West Point Fire & Rescue, a Reserve Deputy with Lee County Sheriff’s Office, a Reserve Police Officer with West Point/Donnellson Police Department, and an EMT with Lee County EMS Ambulance, I can tell you firsthand how dangerous our current system is. As a real-world example, I have been on the scene of many fatality and serious injury motor vehicle collisions, countless medical calls, pursuits, search warrants, traffic stops, missing persons, school activities and more where this current system has led to inefficiencies and at times, a negative impact on patient outcomes. This proposed radio system is absolutely necessary to the first responders and citizens of Lee County.
I ask all supervisors and citizens take a moment and put yourselves in the shoes of your Lee County Fire, EMS, and Law Enforcement personnel. Picture yourself at a medical call or welfare check by yourself or just your partner and yourself. You go into the home and begin speaking with the occupants. An occupant becomes agitated and pulls a weapon, blocking the exit path. You key up your portable radio to ask for additional help, and NOTHING HAPPENS. The sense of dread washes over you, knowing there is no way anyone knows you are in distress and no help is on the way. This is the equipment we serve the public with today. I encourage you all to ask your local responders and our fine LeeComm Dispatchers if they’ve ever been in situations like this. I know I have, and I would bet many more have as well.
It is understandable that there is hesitation with the sum of money being requested. It’s important to note that this proposed system is not the nicest, fanciest, or most expensive option. Rather, it is the basic system we need to communicate with. This county’s first responder leaders have been working diligently for over two years to bring interoperability to the county at the most cost-effective level. This proposed system will tie into the existing state system where cost savings will be realized. As time goes on, a new radio system will not get any cheaper. As a frugal taxpayer myself, I don’t want to spend frivolously on unnecessary government bureaucracy. That is not the case with this project.
As a leader, it is commonly said not to ask your subordinates to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself. The question the supervisors need to ask themselves is, “Would I put my life on the line with a radio that I do not trust to operate?”. I know I wouldn’t, and I think many of my loved ones would say the same thing. By the way, many volunteer fire departments in Lee County are accepting applications for volunteer firefighters and EMS professionals. If any supervisor wants an application, let me know, we could sure use the help.
In conclusion, I respectively ask you to consider approval of this radio project and cut the politics and red tape out of our health and safety.

Bryor J. McMillen, West Point

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