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From the Desk of County Commissioner
 Randy Phiel

(8/2014) One of the most significant and important projects to the quality of life and safety in Adams County that this Board will facilitate may be the new 800 MHz 911 Digital Trunked Public Radio System. The current radio system is over thirty years old with obvious transmission, parts, and equipment issues. The ability to talk to other agencies and continued federal and state funding were also major considerations. After years of review and delay, the current Board of Commissioners reviewed these findings prior to taking office and pulled the trigger as our first major initiative when we took office.

Fiscally the project has remained on track monitored by good management and a Fiscal Review Team comprised of the Commissioners, the County Manager, Emergency Management Staff and several public officials including Fairfield Mayor Ron Harris and Liberty Township Supervisor Bob Jackson. After months of frustrating delays as landowners leases for towers were negotiated and completed, further delays due to the necessity of going through municipal permitting processes, and one of the most severe winters on record, the construction process is now moving forward.

The tower site contractor is busy readying the co-location sites (cellular towers) and will soon begin work on the new tower sites. Motorola, the radio equipment vendor and Alcatel-Lucent, the microwave link vendor have begun, or completed installing equipment at eight of the co-location sites and infrastructure upgrades are underway at the County Courthouse and the Emergency Services Center. There will be a total of 19 tower sites – 11 co-location sites and 8 County-owned tower sites – once the construction phase is complete by the end of 2014. As stated previously, bad weather earlier in the year and a prolonged period of leasing negotiations and legal proceedings have delayed the projected completion schedule. We anticipate the switch over to the new 800 MHz system sometime in mid-2015.

While we are on the subject of emergency services it is a given that we generally take our Adams County emergency staff and responders for granted as a service that will always be there for us. On Tuesday, July 8, a fierce thunderstorm hit Adams County with heavy rain and unusually heavy wind bursts. The storm caused heavy damage to utilities, trees and caused many road closures and blockages in a very short period of time. Adams County Emergency Service Director John Eline stated that in his eight years on the job he had never seen so many calls from both Adams & Franklin Counties in such a short period of time. In fact John and Assistant Director Mary Bowers determined it was the most phone calls in one hour in Adams County 911 history. Fortunately the storm occurred during shift change and the day shift stayed on to help with the extreme volume of calls. Thank you to Dispatch Team of Gary Bretzman, Phil Hagerman, Stephanie Crouse, Nick Shaffer, Jared Day, Lee Byers, Craig Hagerman, Matt Groft and Keith Whittaker for their effort during this situation. Kudos for doing a great job and as usual rising to the challenge to assist county residents!

Speaking of significant initiatives, the Adams County BLS/ALS Steering Committee has been meeting regularly since last fall to explore a regional EMS delivery model since Well Span - Gettysburg Hospital announced last year they would soon be getting out of ALS delivery business (Medic 28). The steering committee is comprised of myself, Council of Governments representatives Bob Gordon and Barb Underwood, several representatives from the Adams County Volunteer Emergency Services Association and the Chief Paramedics from Gettysburg & Hanover Hospital. We have formed committees to explore a list of discussion points for a regional concept including tax-exempt status, government agreements, governance, funding, human resources issues, scope of service, and additional sub-committees.

All county fire departments that provide ambulance ALS, BLS or QRS service are being urged to participate on a committee and attend the meetings. Participation requires absolutely no department commitment; but does insure individual department input and accurate knowledge of progress. At this time the steering committee is still putting ideas together to help guide the process.

Unfortunately, providing volunteer emergency services will only become more difficult with diminishing volunteerism, increased training requirements, and the escalating costs of equipment, training and insurance. Workman’s compensation insurance alone is causing huge anguish for volunteer companies. Initiatives that have historically supported funding volunteer departments such as flipping hamburgers, hosting carnivals and organizing bingo is becoming less a part of today’s society. Eventually regionalization and consolidation is on the horizon as a matter of practical necessity. It should be recognized that municipalities are mandated to provide adequate emergency services for their community and they are beginning to recognize this perfect storm they may soon have on their door step. Regionalization is smart, effective and eventually inevitable.

I would like to personally commend the members of the Adams County BLS/ALS Steering Committee for exhibiting their unselfish commitment to the goal of providing sustainable and professional EMS service to the residents of Adams County.

Since 1923 the South Mountain Fair has been an Adams County tradition that showcases all that Adams County has to offer. What started as a church picnic with two churches in Arendtsville debuts again August 12-16 at the South Mountain Fairground near Arendtsville. There are plenty of things to do and see for young and old such as children’s activities, rides, entertainment in the auditorium, food, merchandise vendors, livestock, agricultural competitions and so much more.

The fair is certainly a tribute to our Adams County’s agrarian heritage. It is highly anticipated by Adams County 4-H members for exhibiting their livestock, projects and other accomplishments. The fair is a wonderful tradition and excellent family event that needs your support. There is a good chance you may run into me near the food pavilions having a fried ham sandwich, chicken corn soup and a milk shake.

The South Mountain Fair is only one of many events and activities you should consider attending this summer and fall. Get out there and experience all the historical, recreational, agricultural, natural and cultural opportunities that beautiful Adams County has to offer.

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