Monroe Co. First Responders: We need more radio towers - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Monroe Co. First Responders: We need more radio towers

MONROE COUNTY, WI (WXOW)—Monroe County first responders said they need new radio towers to improve communication with dispatch and each other during emergencies.

Currently, they have one radio tower in Ridgeville that serves the whole county.

New FCC regulations required a change in technology by January 1st, which made channel capacity greater.

But that resulted in a loss of coverage for Monroe county, about 25-percent.

The county has about 60-percent coverage on portable radios now, standard coverage for portable radios is 95-percent.

Communicating with officers out in the field is a daily struggle for dispatchers.

"It's dangerous for everybody including general public," Randy Williams, Director, 911 Communications Center said.  "If first responders can't hear radio traffic from dispatchers where they're sending them, it's going to delay first responders from getting to homes, schools and to businesses."

Sometimes seconds can mean difference between life and death.

"The call came in there was a man in the hotel with a machete," Lt. Robert Conroy, Monroe County Sheriff's Office said.  "Our deputy responded, was at the call and could not get any response from that deputy; there was no reception, no transmission, no communication at all."

Even the Sheriff's Office Shift Supervisor has trouble hearing what's happening on scene.

"If I have the radio on my side the signal is poor," Detective Sgt. John Rader, Monroe County Sheriff's Office said.  "You can't understand what's going on in the car radio, much less when I go outside.  You have to hold the radio up to get good communication."

First responders said we've been lucky, so far, we haven't had any major disasters because of communication problems.

"If it happens in a situation where there's urgency and safety involved someone could get hurt, seriously hurt or killed," Williams said.

"Its not a matter if something's going to happen," Conroy said."You have to be prepared for when something is going to happen."

James Rasmussen, County Board Member said before moving forward with new radio towers, he would like to learn more about the option of improve the existing tower.

He said tax payers are already paying for a, $20 million, new justice center; he wants to save tax payers money by fixing the existing system rather than building new towers.

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