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February 21, 2008 Issue

Flag for submarine visits area counties
Consultant identifies problems with 911
Officers search for suspects in Wrens Sprint armed robbery

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Flag for submarine visits area counties

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

A Georgia state flag has been traveling across the state since Gov. Sonny Perdue announced the USS Georgia Flag Project as a way to honor the Navy submarine. The submarine had been originally eliminated in 1994, along with three other subs, when the Nuclear Posture Review determined the U.S. military had a surplus of Trident submarines.

Instead, those submarines were converted to precision strike and special operation force capable subs.

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Perdue announced the flag project as a way to honor the submarine bearing the state’s name and its return to service.

The flag and a log book will travel to each of Georgia’s 159 counties where a county commissioner or other representative will sign the log book. Members of the public are also being encouraged to sign the book at the conclusion of a ceremony in each county.

Glascock County held its ceremony Friday, Feb. 8. Glascock County Chairman Anthony Griswell was on hand with several Glascock County citizens to sign the log book. Glascock County was the 77th stop for the flag on its trip through the Georgia counties.

A similar ceremony was held in Jefferson County on Monday, Feb. 11.

Capt. Bill Hunt (USN-Ret.) has been traveling with the flag and log book and was on hand to speak about the submarine. Hunt, a representative of the Navy League, said the USS Georgia was specifically named in the Tom Clancy book, “The Hunt for Red October.”

“It wasn’t in the movie, but it was in the book,” he said.

At the Jefferson County event, several area mayors were on hand, along with Jefferson County Commission Chairman William Rabun.

Rabun welcomed the public and then said, “We are honored to be here today on the grounds of the first permanent capitol of the state of Georgia seated before the memorials of our fallen military heroes who gave the supreme sacrifice so that our country remain the land of freedom.”

Wadley Mayor Herman Baker told those gathered that he had been in the Navy himself and could still remember his number, which he recited.

“There are two reasons I remember that number,” he said. “It was how I got my mail and it was how I got paid.”

Members of the Jefferson County High School Navy Junior ROTC and Cmdr. Charles Lewis, the unit’s senior Naval science instructor, were on hand. The students acted as the color guard and carried the United States flag, the Georgia state flag and the Navy flag.



Consultant identifies problems with 911

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

The long awaited report from a contractor hired by Jefferson County to evaluate its radio systems was released Wednesday, Feb. 13.

“The largest problem with this system as described by employees of the County is the inability to transmit from a portable in a large number of locations within the County, as well as not being able to hear ‘Central,’ as dispatch is referred to, in a good portion of the north part of the County as well as some areas central and south,” the report, provided by J. Barry Woodward Sr. of Eagle Eye Consultants in Covington, stated.

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One problem Woodward cited is the change in location of the county’s radio system from a 200-foot tower in downtown Louisville to its current location at the Law Enforcement Center.

According to his report, the elevation of the previous site is five feet higher than the current site. Additionally, the tower is shorter and further reduces the height of the system by 140 feet, for a total of 145 feet difference.

“In its prior location, there were very few problems with coverage to blanket the county from dispatch,” the report stated. “The reason given for the short tower was because of the proximity to the Jefferson County Airport, however, observation has been that this is not in the direct line of the airport, and should not be an air hazard if extended. After it was moved and determined that it was not working at all at the new location, it was moved again to the Mennonite Church Road site, and the tower extended to accommodate it.”

Woodward said in his report that the company providing maintenance and repair on these systems, Wilson Communications of Grovetown, has provided several options for the county’s consideration.

Woodward requested testers at AT&T check the lines that run to the various sites of the radio circuits, which provide direct and uninterrupted connections to the equipment.

The company checked for continuity, proper audio levels and proper operation of these lines. “Their response back to me was that the lines are within tolerances and are operating up to specifications,” Woodward stated.

Woodward said he was furnished a mobile radio programmed on all frequencies that Jefferson County uses.

“I traveled to all parts of the county, both day and night, to get a good, overall view of how the system operates as well as where the problem areas seem to be,” he said.

His findings were:

· The north-central part of the county from south of Wrens to where Jefferson County High School is at Mennonite Church Road has very poor reception from Central. The transmissions were noisy and nearly unreadable;

· On the south end between Bartow and the Old Fire Tower, there is an imbalance of the receivers between the two locations. In a “voting” system set-up, the receivers pick the best signal coming from the field and relay that back into the system. In the case of these two sites, one of them has what is considered a “hot” receiver because its audio is louder than the other, and when the signal bounces back and forth from one to another, the audio goes up and down, and when it is on the “up” side, it is frequently distorted. (Woodward stated Wilson Communications said the “hot” receiver problem has been corrected.)

· Over towards the Wadley area, the system can barely be heard from the dispatcher, although dispatch hears the units fine.

· On the north end, north of Wrens, the dispatcher can be heard fine, but the units have trouble being heard, especially on portables.

· At Central, they keep a mobile radio on at the third console because they have trouble receiving the units, and this radio will pick up mobile transmissions through the system that the console does not hear, which indicates a possible receiver problem at the prime antenna site.

“As far as the systems for Wrens and Wadley, I could find no problems other than age, and with the fire department, the coverage was good, but this system has two transmitter sites that are not in sync with each other and when Central uses the master transmit for fire, that is transmitting on both at one time, then in the central part of the county, the transmissions are garbled because the transmitters are fighting against each other to transmit and can cause them to be unreadable,” the report states, adding the fire department is also dealing with old equipment.

Another problem cited in the report is that the fixed stations in the Sheriff’s office, although fairly new, are 110 watt stations, which is not enough power to cover the area it has to cover.

“In the case of the EMS transmitter, it is only running at 50 watts, which, by the time it reaches the antenna is only running about 15 watts,” the report states. The report states further that some of the equipment used was not originally set up for public safety use, but for amateur operator use and modified.

“This is what is found primarily in the volunteer fire departments. These volunteers are responsible for obtaining their own equipment, and they go by whatever means that are available to have a radio to use,” according to the report.

“A lot of misconception I have heard from the field is that the radio system should work everywhere,” Woodward said in his report. “No radio system is going to work everywhere, and no radio system manufacturer will guarantee 100 percent coverage. The best you will get from them is 90 to 95 percent coverage with mobiles, and less with portables, depending on the number of receiver sites available to them. The field personnel must know where their radio system does and does not work and make allowances for that.”

Woodward further states that part of the problems with portables is that they are worn on the belt with a shoulder microphone, which is what is convenient for the officer.

“The body shields the radio antenna of the portable causing it not to transmit properly and the only way for it to work better is to get it off the belt and use it directly in front of you. The only place that the belt carry works well is at 800 Mhz.”

Woodward said he found some personnel thought the county was going to go to 800 Mhz but this is not the case.

One recommendation of the report is to extend the tower located at the sheriff’s office from its present 60 feet to 190 feet and relocate the main transmitter currently located at Mennonite Church Road back to the sheriff’s office, replacing the current transmitter with one of approximately 250 watts. Woodward states this option is cost prohibitive. A guyed tower would be cheaper but there is not room for the guy wires.

A workable alternative would be to continue with the tower at the sheriff’s office and extend the Mennonite Church tower to 300 feet from its present 190 feet and replace the transmitter with a 250-watt transmitter.

“This could possibly cover the whole county at this height and power,” he said.

The cost of this would be about $109,000, he said. The downtime to switch from the existing tower to the new tower should be less than one hour, according to the report.

“This would require extensive planning with all departments to ensure that no calls are missed during this outage,” he said.

Another antenna and equipment is located at an officer’s house. The antenna is bent and the tower is not high enough to support the north end of the county, according to the report. “This could be moved over to the Wren’s water tower where existing equipment is to prepare also for a third transmitter site in a three-year plan.”

Woodward pointed out the 110-watt transmitter located at Mennonite Church Road could be moved to this tower also. This would cost about $22,000, he said.

Other recommendations for immediate consideration, according to Woodward, are to readjust all receiver sites to equal levels to give an even seam to all incoming radio transmissions, which should be included at no additional cost by routine maintenance by Wilson Communications; have all personnel be completely exposed to the others’ operations so 911 operators know what the sheriff’s office and fire departments do and vice versa in order to build a better relationship among the public safety entities; replace all equipment older than 20 years to newer, state-of-the-art equipment; replace the two Zetron 911 consoles with new equipment.

The cost of these recommendations, according to Woodward, would be $75,000.

He recommends replacement of the EMS transmitter to the proper power, or about 250 watts, at a cost of about $15,000.

Other changes to consider in a three-year plan are to add a third transmitter site for the sheriff’s office in the Wrens area; add two receiver only sites, one in the east side of the county and the other on the west side of the county; and upgrade the existing phone line connects to either T-1 or Fiber Optic connections.

In the five-year plan, Woodward suggests replacing all antennas, transmission lines and connections for all antenna sites; replace all old transmitter and receiver equipment; and stay current on all fixed, mobile and portable equipment.

“The consoles being used need to be replaced. I do know that we’re losing signal strength because the altitude of the tower is not appropriate,” Maj. Charles Gibbons, Operations Administrative Manager, said. “We have been suggesting for awhile to raise the tower height to see if that would give us more range as far as the deputies when they’re in the field. Deputies, EMS and fire personnel all have said they have problems receiving information from the center and transmitting information to the center. The operators in the center have the same problem.”

Gibbons said some suggestions have been made.

“I know that Mr. Bryan and the sheriff and Malinda White have been talking about the problems that we’ve been having. I’ve been in meetings with Mr. Bryan before and have been in meetings with the sheriff. We have discussed this at length,” he said.

Gibbons said the report is progress and a way to move forward.

“I don’t care what type of system we have; we could have a $10 million system. It’s not going to be free of any glitches. At some point, we’re going to have problems because of the weather or others transmitting. We are in need of upgrades so we can give better service to the community,” he said.

“I’m attempting to get grants and appropriations to cover the cost of these upgrades,” Jefferson County Administrator Paul Bryan said.

Bryan said the county plans to increase the heights of two towers, the one at the Law Enforcement Center and the one on Mennonite Church Road, and add required safety lighting; purchase three new consoles; upgrade transmitters to 250 watts; add additional transmitter sites in the northern end of the county; move the tower in Wrens to a new location; and upgrade existing phone lines to T-1 or fiber optics.

These changes would depend upon funding, he said.



Officers search for suspects in Wrens Sprint armed robbery

By Parish Howard
Editor / Publisher

Law enforcement officials are looking for leads in a Thursday morning robbery of a Wrens convenience store.

According to the Wrens Police Chief David Hannah, a lone black male, wearing a ski mask and camouflage jacket entered the Sprint Foods Store on U.S. Highway One at approximately 2:25 a.m. and demanded the store’s money.

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“There was something in his hand, but at this point it is not clear whether it was a handgun or not,” Chief Hannah said.

According to the department’s incident report, the store’s clerk handed the robber the money drawer from the register and the suspect fled the scene on foot, running north west.

“We called in the Columbia County K9 tracking unit,” Chief Hannah said. “It appears the suspect ran down Hill Street, over to Frederick Street and then the dogs lost the scent at the corner of Fredericks and Williams streets. He could have entered a vehicle at that point.”

Jefferson County Sheriff’s Officer units and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation joined the search of the area however no suspects meeting the description given were found.

“We’re asking anyone with information about this robbery to call our office at (706) 547-3000,” Chief Hannah said. “All calls will be kept confidential.”

This is the second robbery of a store on U.S. Highway One in Wrens in the last month.

On Jan. 21, less than 10 minutes before the Dollar General store was to close, two men with bandanas over their faces entered brandishing handguns. The men demanded money from the registers and the safe. After obtaining the money the two men fled the store on foot and witnesses claim they entered a four-door black sedan parked at a nearby grocery store and fled the scene.

“We are still investigating several leads in the Dollar General robbery and expect to be bringing charges in that case pretty soon,” Chief Hannah said. “In the meantime we are making sure that our residents are as safe as possible. If anyone is confronted by a robber, please give them what they want. If any of our businesses feel uncomfortable at closing time, call us any time and we will escort your employees to their vehicles. We offer this service all the time. We just want everyone to be safe.”




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