From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 2, Number 20 - August 15, 2002
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

New radio system up for debate

by Cat Urbigkit

Much of the discussion at Monday night's Sublette County Rural Health Care District board meeting involved what type of radio system the board should purchase.

With the board apparently being fed some misinformation, it made a decision to seek out further information about a new radio system which costs $40,000 more than the other system under consideration, and drops a local man out of the running for supplying the system in favor of a man from Shoshoni.

Kati Richins, a Pinedale Emergency Medical Services emergency medical technician who also works in dispatch for the Sublette County Sheriff's Office, told the board that it's her recommendation that a new radio system be purchased, with her preference to be a system similar to that of the sheriff's and the fire departments.

According to a letter Richins wrote to the board, this would require purchase of a radio base and two repeaters, installment of the base on Mount Airy, and placement of the repeaters on Aspen Ridge and the Hogsback. This new system would allow the ability to tone both ambulance services on one channel; communication with both clinics on the channel; and the capability to dispatch on the same channel.

Richins detailed problems with the current system, with outdated systems and limited parts availability, as well as the communications limitations inherit in the system. According to Richins, these problems "have created and will create more significant officer safety and patient care issues."

Richins requested Jeff Alexander of Sublette Communications, Gene Defoe of Shoshoni and Dave Smith of Dave's Electronics of Pinedale to submit rough bids for a new medical-band radio system similar to that used by the sheriff's department "to provide coverage throughout the county and maintain all medical personnel on one channel."

The result was Alexander's bid of $18,354 for a Motorola system, and Defoe's bid of $58,129 for a GE Master Three system, which is similar to the sheriff's department's. Richins recommended the board go with Defoe, stating that Defoe's system would "give us countywide coverage" and in the event one of the systems in the county had problems, two other backups would be available if all three systems were the same.

Richins spoke against Alexander's proposal, stating that in her view, Motorola has fallen behind in technology. In addition, if the board were to choose Defoe, "placement of the equipment would be in the county's buildings where the sheriff's and fire radio equipment is or will be."

According to the letter to the board from Richins: "If you choose Jeff Alexander, you will not be allowed to use the county's buildings. Jeff is not allowed in the building to work on equipment due to numerous problems in the past."

Richins repeated the assertion at the board meeting, pressing the board to choose Defoe, and if so, "We'll get 100-percent better coverage over what we have now."

After listening to Richins and discussing the matter, board member Garry Eiden Sr. made a motion to get more information about Defoe's system and find the money for this more expensive option. Board member Bob Dew seconded the motion and the board voted unanimously in favor.

Richins' letter to the health care board was written on Pinedale Emergency Medical Council letterhead. It was signed, "Kati Richins, Pinedale Ambulance Service, Sublette County Dispatch."

SCSO dispatch supervisor Rick Hubbard was contacted Tuesday afternoon and asked if it was his agency's policy to not allow the use of the county's buildings should the board choose to go with Alexander. Hubbard said the statements in the letter weren't accurate and that what the county was interested in was having the emergency agencies have the same equipment. Having one vendor provide that equipment and working in the county buildings would help to keep things more secure, Hubbard said. The letter "might be a little misleading," Hubbard said, adding that since it is emergency-services related, he doubts if the county would restrict Alexander.

Richins letter also stated: "Also, if Jeff is not available to work on the equipment, there is no other to do so since he will not allow anyone from the sheriff's office into his buildings." Hubbard said he doesn't know if this is true because he has never had to access Alexander's buildings.

Sheriff Hank Ruland was contacted about the issue as well. He said, to his knowledge, the statements aren't true: "I haven't made any decision about that ... We still use Jeff." Alexander continues to provide work on the radios in the sheriff's department's cars as needed, Ruland said.

"We don't have a war going with Jeff," Ruland said, adding, "Rick (Hubbard) and I will speak for Sublette County Dispatch."

Contacted Tuesday evening, board member Walt Bousman said the misinformation provided to the board really doesn't impact his decision for what radio system he prefers, but "it's definitely some cause for concern."

"It's not going to influence the radio system," Bousman said, since he prefers the GE Master Three system because the equipment would be interchangeable between the emergency services agencies. Bousman said he expects the radio issue will probably be discussed at the board's next meeting.

In other business at Monday's meeting, the board agreed to pay Dr. David Burnett $32,000 for the inventory in the Big Piney/Marbleton Medical Clinic. Burnett has agreed in the event he ever leaves the clinic, to leave $32,000 worth of inventory, moving the clinic towards more of a turn-key operation.

Most of the remainder of the meeting time was spent with the board in executive session, first for a short session with Burnett, then with both Burnett and Physician's Assistant Rich Anderson, then a half-hour session with EMT Wil Gay, and a 10-minute session with EMT Lucy Fandek.

When the board came back into session, it noted no action was taken, then held another short session with its clerk, Juana McGinnis, before paying the bills and adjourning the meeting.

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