ERIE – St. Paul and Erie emergency responders brought complaints about the Neosho County 911 system to county commissioners at the Thursday evening commission meeting.
Chanute city officials have previously discussed 911 matters, and the county commission has set a deadline of Tuesday for a response from Chanute about what its future plans entail. County 911 Director Lori Nally said Thursday she had not heard from the city.
St. Paul Fire Chief Wyatt Westhoff and firefighter Phil Gutch, with both the St. Paul and Erie volunteer fire departments, presented documents to county commissioners Thursday about cases where agencies were not contacted correctly.
Nally said she wanted to validate the documents by listening to the 911 recordings before she responded.
Some of the cases included water rescues on May 26 and 27 where Erie Rescue was not notified. Chanute responded May 26 and St. Paul responded May 27.
Gutch said Erie Rescue covers two-thirds of the county including St. Paul and Stark. Parsons responds to areas south of 50th Road. Gutch said Erie is also not getting called to car wrecks.
“We’ve discussed this with Lori multiple times,” Wyatt Westhoff said, adding that officials with several agencies need to meet to discuss the issues. “This is just not a Chanute problem with dispatch. We need to get together and figure out how to fix the system.”
Gutch offered a suggestion of where to start.
“What we’re after is to get training,” he said. “We need to get our dispatchers trained to know this stuff.”
On Sept. 5, Chanute firefighters responded to a grass fire near Kiowa and 170th Roads in Erie’s territory.
“We should not have to request Erie Rescue,” Wyatt Westhoff said. “Something needs to change in this county for 911.”
Nally said for one of the cases, Chanute was called inadvertently then Erie contacted.
“We are all human,” she said.
Since the 911 department became a separate entity from the Sheriff’s Department, it has had an advisory board, but officials said there are problems getting a quorum and notifying members. Gutch said volunteer firefighters are not included on the 911 Advisory Board, and Commissioner David Orr said Chanute board members have met without notifying the county.
Gutch also raised issues about a pending revision in broadcast bands by the Federal Communications Commission which could further impact radio coverage in the county.
Wyatt Westhoff presented written information on a digital system.
“This radio system here for the county is life and death,” he said.
He later arranged with County Counselor Seth Jones to set up meetings to discuss the matter.
Road and Bridge matters, other business
Dutton Levee District Superintendent Bill George discussed funding issues for repairs of levees.
George said he has sought to borrow funds, and was seeking issuance of bonds through no-fund tax warrants. He said he has gone to Topeka, but officials there told him they could not help and that he needed to set up a funding system.
Jones warned that the statutes George used were intended for first-class cities rather than levee districts.
Road and Bridge Director Mike Brown discussed funding possibilities to replace a bridge south of Erie on Pryor Road.
An engineering estimate said replacement will cost $2.8 million, and Brown discussed two funding sources that could both be used. If both are available, the county could be responsible for 15 percent of the cost. Commissioners voted to let Brown negotiate with the Kansas Department of Transportation cost-share program.
In comments near the end of the meeting, Commissioner Gail Klaassen said if the county decides to take up zoning, it will need a steering committee, then a comprehensive plan. She said it would be a nine- to 12-month process and the plan would cost $50,000.
“It’s very expensive, very time-consuming, nothing that’s going to be done in a short amount of time,” she said.
She said she is following efforts by Nemaha County in northeastern Kansas, and a Sept. 30 meeting there is online on YouTube.