County step closer to total MSWIN radio coverage

Staff Writer

The transition to a new emergency radio system across West Point and Clay County took another small step Thursday.

The sheriff’s department, volunteer fire departments, county supervisors, trash crews, and E-911 system all now are operating on the MSWIN radio system.

The West Point police and fire departments and other city agencies, including trash trucks and public works and utility crews, could start the move late next month.

And Thursday, Clay County supervisors approved maintaining utilities and related services on a shed housing the current radio system repeater on Enon Road until the North Mississippi Medical Center’s ambulance service can purchase the MSWIN system. That could take up to four months.
The ambulance service will use a $12,517 state grant to buy the radios, but needs the county to keep the repeater working until then.

The cost amounts to about $100 a month, supervisors said.

“That’s pretty important, and it’ll be worth every penny of it if it means saving a life,” Supervisor Board President R.B. Davis said.

The MSWIN radio system is designed to provide seamless communications statewide. Local agencies not only will be able to talk to each other easily but also can communicate with agencies anywhere else in the state. That’s particularly important on everything from natural disasters and statewide emergencies to regional issues such as chemical spills or crimes.

The system was developed following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and has slowly been expanding across the state. The Highway Patrol, fish and wildlife and other state agencies already are on the system, as are several other law enforcement and emergency response agencies in the region. Others are in the process of going to it.

In addition to broader communications, it also eliminates “dead zones” that were a major problem in remote areas of Clay County with the county’s old digital system.

The county completed the transition earlier this month and the city approved it in December.

Emergency Management Director Torrey Williams said Thursday the city’s equipment is slated to be shipped the week of Feb. 4. Technicians then will program the hand-held and vehicle radios and begin training and installation by mid- to late-February.

In other business Thursday, supervisors:

— Approved a $4,500 annual contract with Community Counseling Services to provide a variety of mental health services to the county and its employees.

Under the contract, CCS will train county employees, such as sheriff’s deputies and court personnel, to recognize and handle people with mental health issues.

The agency also will provide counseling services to county workers in response to everything from traumatic incidents to everyday job and family stress. CCS also will provide referrals in cases where necessary.

“It’s something valuable to the services we provide the taxpayers and to our employees,” Davis said of the proposal.

West Point has a similar contract.

— Named Ken Poole, Alvin Carter and Larry Barton to the E911 Commission, the seven-member board that oversees the emergency dispatch service. Barton, who works at Royal Trucking, and Carter, the Clay County Coroner, were reappointed for four-year terms. Poole, who works for the ambulance service and is a city Selectman, replaces West Point Mayor Robbie Robinson, who asked not to be re-appointed. The terms for two more members will be up in 2020 and two more in 2021.