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Jacksonville fire, police departments get radio grant

A $88,108 federal grant will give Jacksonville’s fire and police departments new digital portable radios to replace ones that can no longer be repaired.

Fire Chief Wayne Painter secured the grant funds through an Office of Emergency Management program. Bids to supply about a dozen radios and associated equipment are now being sought. Painter estimates the units should be available within a month.

“Our current portable radios are petty old. A lot are hand-me-downs from the city of Medford that gave them to us years ago,” said Painter.

Motorola will no longer provide repairs for the units, he said, although items such as switches and knobs can be used from disabled units to keep current units operable.

The city will supply approximately $9,000 toward the purchase to meet a 10% grant match requirement. Jacksonville City Council accepted the grant at its Dec. 1 meeting.

A $28 million Jackson County bond measure approved by voters in November 2019 will be used to update emergency communication systems throughout the county. Painter said the levy will take several years to implement.

“I couldn’t wait, so that’s why I proceeded with the Homeland Security grant,” he said.

The county measure will provide new digital radios to all police and fire personnel. It will also provide additional transmission facilities and digital equipment for the Emergency Communications of Southern Oregon dispatch center in Central Point.

“I want to make sure that what I buy now is the same as what is bought in a couple years,” said Painter. “Interoperability between everyone else is the big thing. That way my department is the same as Medford and the fire districts. I could grab their equipment and be able to use it. It’s just consistency,”

The radios stand about seven inches tall and are three inches wide. Radios for firefighters will be equipped with speakers. Radios for police will be able to hook up to ear pieces so that information is not broadcast publicly. All radios will have microphones attached to cords. The grant will purchase chargers too.

“They will have the capability to talk with all the other agencies in the city, with public works, with fire districts, Oregon Department of Forestry and BLM,” said Painter. “Also with the ambulance services.

Two other grants have provided equipment to the fire department recently.

A $38,000 grant from the Arthur R. Dubs Foundation purchased a second cardiac monitor for city fire crews, who also provide emergency medical response. The city had purchased one of the monitors earlier this year. The units include chest leads for monitoring.

Fire department equipment will now be compatible with the cardiac monitors used by ambulance services responding to emergencies in the city. Crews will no longer need to remove all leads but can just disconnect and reconnect rapidly between agency monitors.

In addition, a grant from the Robert and Frances Chaney Foundation for $8,000 had allowed purchase of eight breathing apparatus supply bottles. Firefighters use breathing apparatus when they work in smoky environments. The old bottles could no longer be used after Dec. 31, as they would not meet new standards.

Two of the new bottles will be placed in rapid-intervention packs that can be used to supply air for up to an hour to patients who cannot be transported from an area immediately.

In another fire department development, work will begin shortly on the remodel and seismic retrofit of the 1950s fire station on C Street. The one-story building will be expanded to two stories and reinforced to better withstand earthquakes. S&B James Company was awarded the contract for the work. The project is being financed by a state grant of $1.34 million and money from the city’s urban renewal agency.

Firefighting equipment is now housed at the city’s Public Works site, and a modular unit is providing housing for on-duty crews there. Remodeling is estimated for completion in winter 2021-22.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

The Jacksonville Fire Station. (Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune file photo)