County moves forward with communications project

The Hamilton County Board of Supervisors voted to move ahead with a general obligation emergency communication equipment lease-purchase agreement, providing for the levy of taxes to pay for the measure. A public hearing was held on the matter Tuesday during the board’s regular session.

“This is a project that has come up much more quickly than expected,” said Sheriff Doug Timmons.

“Basically, we’re going from analog to digital for our radio system for emergency services — fire, EMS and law enforcement.”

Timmons said the project, part of the Iowa Statewide Interoperable Communications System (ISICS) is designed to increase connectivity between the state and local agencies. The statewide system is slated to start operations July 1. Hamilton County should be up and running shortly after that date, according to Motorola representatives. Wright, Humboldt and Boone Counties are also working on systems.

In Hamilton County, Timmons said the dispatch center, the towers and microwaves for relaying from tower to tower, will need to be upgraded along with new portable and in-vehicles radios.

Timmons said the existing Kamrar radio tower will be utilized, but added that coverage in outlying portions of the county will depend upon where surrounding counties place towers.

The upgrades and changes to the communication system are expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2018. The total cost for the lease-purchase agreement will not exceed $2.5 million, according to the supervisors, and payments would begin April 1, 2020.

“This project has been coming together much quicker than we thought,” said Supervisor David Young, who participated in the meeting via telephone. “There is no secret and I’ve been very upfront about this — I think this is the biggest unfunded mandate for counties that I’ve seen in my tenure on the board.”

But, he added, the program is a public safety issue which the county must advance.

“But there is no doubt about it, there will be a taxation cost,” he said. “It’s a huge project but it’s a project that needs to be done.”

In other business, the board awarded two contracts for upcoming road projects. Heartland Asphalt Inc. of Mason City turned in the low bid for the resurfacing of County Road D-18 from the Webster County line to Highway 17. The total bid of $833,848 was lower than the engineer’s estimate of $984,642.10, according to County Engineer Nicole Stinn. The project has a start date of Sept. 24 and the contractor will be allowed 20 working days to complete the work, she said.

United Contractors of Johnston was awarded the contract for the Boone River Crossing. The firm turned in the low bid of $2,746,399.60, nearly $800,000 below the engineer’s estimate.

Stinn said development of the project started back in early 1990s with a feasibility study. It was determined that the best option for the crossing was to replace the two existing historic bridges with one new bridge on an alternate alignment downstream of the Bever Bridge. Following a couple of public hearings, it was determined that the most desirable placement would be to follow straight through on the section line between sections 6 of Hamilton Township and section 31 of Independence Township. Work is expected to begin in October.