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Communications grant OK'd by BOCC

by MOLLY ROBERTS
Staff Reporter | July 29, 2022 5:05 AM

WALLACE — When you call 911, you want it to go as smoothly as possible, so it’s important for the equipment, maintenance and training of personnel to be top-notch.

Shoshone County Communications Director Casey Vanbuskirk recently met with members of the Shoshone Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) to discuss his department’s application for this year’s Dedicated Enhanced Emergency Communications grant from the Idaho Public Safety Communications Commission (IPSCC).

“A couple years ago I came to you with a big presentation, we needed a new generator and lots of major upgrades,” Vanbuskirk said. “Two years ago we applied for $322,000 and received $313,992 but this year is a little more modest. We are requesting a grant for $50,920.”

The grant is for governmental or multi-governmental organizations that operate a consolidated emergency communications system. Before the grant is officially sent to IPSCC, it must be approved and endorsed by the county, city, or taxing district within its service area.

Vanbuskirk explained that Shoshone County Communications recently joined forces with Post Falls and Bonner County, which essentially means the hardware and server are in one central location. Previously, all three counties had separate servers, which had to be replaced every 3-4 years.

“We had a standalone server, and Post Falls had a standalone server, and our bid for a new server was $194,000. But you can take the same equipment, house it in one location, and utilize it through Wi-Fi. Our hub is in Post Falls.”

This was recommended by the state — and according to Vanbuskirk, this decision has saved a lot of money.

“Because we joined forces, we were able to use that money towards the purchase of a battery backup that had burnt up in the interim,” Vanbuskirk said. “Around this time, our generator from 1972 also blew up, so we were able to put some money into a new 911 generator.”

Previously, the grant did not pay for service fees, so Vanbuskirk did not apply last year. However, the grant has changed what they pay for and will now pay for 100% of the 911 service fees.

“Before we joined forces with Post Falls and Boundary our phone bill just for 911 calls was $35,000 a year,” he said. “That bill is currently cut down 40% but there are still a cost and fees associated.”

Fees, maintenance and training are at the bulk of the request for the grant, Vanbusirk said.

“We don’t need a lot of things,” he said. “We don’t need a generator, we don’t need a lot of upgrades, that was mostly for the hardware and a little bit was for software and training.”

BOCC John Hanson and Jay Huber approved and endorsed the grant, which must be submitted to IPSCC no later than the end of the business day on July 29 of this year.

Huber ended the meeting complimenting Vanbuskirk’s efforts, “You did just as good this year with the grant, as you did two years ago. Good job.”

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