Sheriff cites radio safety issues

Written by Katy Nesbitt, The Observer October 31, 2012 02:00 pm

Radio communication concerns of the Wallowa County sheriff have been eased some, at least for now. In a Sept. 4 county commissioner meeting Sheriff Fred Steen said there were major safety issues regarding the county’s radio system.

Steen said for the last two or three years there have been significant problems with the radio system, the repeaters and a variety of other issues. Pacific Electronics won the bid for the military grade system that was installed more than eight years ago.

“The system seems to be degrading, depending on the day, between a moderate and a high rate of speed,” said Steen. “We have replaced duplexers and hardware and we still do not get the coverage on our radio system that we had in the beginning.”

In August the radio problems came to a head when a deputy working security at the Cache Creek Fire base camp in Joseph couldn’t radio dispatch in Enterprise, six miles away.

The county hired a consultant to look into the problem. After a quick inspection of the Sheep Ridge tower from where the county transmits its radio communication, the problem became evident. One of Oregon Public Broadcasting’s television signals was interfering with the county’s radio transmission.

The “mixed signals” problem was easily fixed and so far the county’s radio communication is working fine, yet Steen is still concerned.

He said he worries that the problem isn’t fixed for the long-term and will keep tabs on it to ensure officer and public safety.