The Nederland City Council unanimously approved the acceptance of a 2012 State Homeland Security Program grant of more than $17,000 for interoperability radio equipment for local emergency services providers at its regular meeting Monday, Oct. 22.
City Manager Chris Duque said the federal and state governments are promoting the use of the interoperability equipment in order to facilitate communication between regional emergency responders and coordinators. According to Fire Chief Gary Collins, the equipment allows the regional responders to operate on a standardized radio system for police, fire departments and public works departments in emergency situations.
Duque said the Nederland Fire Department requested authorization for acceptance of the grant to purchase the equipment to be utilized by the Nederland Fire and Police Departments. Police Chief Darrell Bush and Collins recommended approval of the measure, according to Duque, who concurred with the suggestion.
“It puts us all on the same page,” Collins said. He explained that the computerized system utilizes “talk groups” within certain radio frequencies so that the emergency responders can communicate with each other without outside interference. The radios would be on the same frequency but also in a talk group specific to regional authorities responding to a common emergency. “If we have a bad incident, we can get everyone on the same talk group.”
The interoperability program is in place, but this grant allows the purchase of more equipment for the program. Collins said they intend to purchase radio equipment and support equipment, like batteries, chargers and more, with this grant money. He said the federal government provides funds to Homeland Security and Homeland Security disburses the funds to the region. Southeast Texas Regional Planning Commission then grants funds to local agencies, according to Collins.
Nederland Assistant Police Chief Gary Porter said they have been using interoperability equipment for a lot more than radio communications. He said departments are able to communicate via radio with regional government agencies and manufacturing plants, but they are also able to access computer databases and share criminal information with one another and even to see video feeds between agencies. He said the new equipment will be helpful to the program, and the grant means the city does not have to expend funds for it.
Other council business
In other matters, the council approved an action authorizing the solicitation of bids for the Nederland City Hall project. The council previously gave the go ahead for the project, budgeted at $1.1 million, in August. The building layout was approved Oct. 9 with the exception of the relocation of the restrooms. Duque said they would start accepting bids for the project Dec. 6 and expects to have a recommendation for the council Dec. 17.
Duque said the City Council would accept the lowest bid for the building project. He said over the last four years, the city has succeeded in completing all building projects at or below budget. He said he is hopeful the same will be the case with the new city hall.
“The economy is what drives the bidding,” Duque said. “(The contractors) know the bids have to be competitive.”
The council accepted a measure approving an interlocal agreement between the Southeast Texas Planning Commission and the city of Nederland pertaining to the Blackboard Connect system. The Blackboard Connect system is part of a regional effort to alert the community and city officials in case of disaster. The system sends texts or e-mails to those signed up for alerts on the Blackboard Connect system. Duque said it is an evolving system and can be used by citizens, not just in emergencies, but also to send texts or e-mails in order to report water leaks, road damage or other concerning issues. He said there is a link on the city website for anyone interested in participating to register.