2013-02-07 / Front Page

911 board plans to foot $30K bill for hospital antennas

Equipment allows emergency personnel to communicate

MANISTIQUE – The Schoolcraft County 911 Authority Board will pay up to $30,000 to install antennas for law enforcement and emergency medical and fire personnel at the new Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital facility. The decision to use funds was made during a recent meeting of the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners.

According to Commissioner Craig Reiter, SMH knowingly built the new facility without the proper equipment needed for first responders, fire and police officers to communicate with each other within the hospital. Since the hospital will basically act as a dead-zone for their communication devices, Reiter said the 911 board recently agreed to use its funds to install the bi-directional antennas.

“What this does, is it picks up 800 high-band from within the building and broadcasts out,” Reiter explained. “So you’re able to talk.”

In a letter to the 911 board, Reiter said SMH CEO George Montgomery wrote that the hospital had applied for a Hospital Preparedness Program grant to possibly use to reimburse the board. However, Reiter noted the funds from the grant, if approved, could take up to two years to receive.

Reiter pointed out that various first responders had toured the facility and confirmed the communication problems.

“It is a problem, and its something we need to address,” he said. “I’m not real happy about this – that the 9-1-1 funds will be used for this – but our first responders will be in this building continuously.”

He noted there is plenty of money available in the board’s budget to cover the $28,618 quote they received for the antennas and installation.

“You need to be able to communicate with the outside world when you’re within the building,” Reiter said.

The hospital had the same problem at their current facility, Reiter said, but nothing had ever been done about it. Since the antennas are not required, he explained the hospital decided to forgo their installation in the new facility.

“I would have liked them to do it, however, that didn’t happen,” he said. “Right now, once you walk in there, you’re basically walking into a not-communication zone. Quite frankly, we’d be putting our people into harm’s way.”

Commissioner Dan LaFoille corrected Reiter, noting, “We’re not putting them into harm’s way – the hospital is.”

Schoolcraft County Sheriff W. John Norrington added he, too, took issue with the lack of antennas in the hospital.

“If you have an active shooter scenario in there, or if the responders are called for another emergency, they will not be able to be heard,” he said.

Commissioners approved the motion to allow the 911 Authority Board to spend up to $30,000 to obtain the needed BDAs for the hospital.

In other business, Reiter explained during the communications portion of the meeting that he had recently run into some problems with the SMH Board of Directors. While attending one of their recent meetings, Reiter said the hospital approved a bid to demolish their current facility after they move into the new facility.

Reiter explained he had asked during the public comment period what the lowest bid for hospital demolition was, and also for the board members to identify the contractor with the lowest bid.

“I was told that I don’t need to know,” he said. “It seems to me that … there should have been who was getting it and the dollar amount.”

Since the demolished building would go into one of two area landfills, Reiter said he also asked which landfill had been chosen.

“Mr. (Robert) Root (SMH board member) basically said it was none of his concern where it went,” Reiter said. “It was amazing – this was an open meeting; I was just a little miffed.”

Board Chairperson Al Grimm noted the SMH board may not have been required to answer questions under the “public comment” session of the meeting.

Reiter also mentioned a recent newsletter noted that the company which had acquired Marquette General Hospital was looking to possibly obtain more hospitals.

“(The newsletter is) talking about the company that acquired Marquette General and that in there they mention they want to pick up some more,” he said. “And that our new hospital was in line with the things they are looking for.

Take it for what it’s worth,” he added.

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