Levy Town Hall answers variety of questions

DARKE COUNTY – The county’s first-ever Facebook Live Town Hall meeting, sponsored by The Early Bird and Bluebag Media  on Wednesday, Sept. 27, was a success and offered voters the opportunity to ask questions and hear information concerning the upcoming .45 mill emergency communications levy.

The levy, which will fund emergency communications equipment including MARCS radios, repeaters and pagers for the county’s law enforcement, fire and rescue agencies, will appear as Issue 3 on the Nov. ballot for all Darke County voters.

Welcoming those who were watching via Facebook, GPAT and the city’s You Tube channel was Keith Foutz, owner/publisher of The Early Bird and Bluebag Media.

Foutz explained the Facebook Town Hall was not an endorsement of the levy by the news organization, but with a lot of misinformation and hearsay concerning the levy, the event was planned to “provide everybody with the opportunity to get their questions answered.”

Representatives from several emergency agencies across the county sat on the Town Hall panel, ready to answer questions, including Darke County Chief Deputy Mark Whittaker who said the county will be making the switch from VHF to MARCS – Multi Agency Radio Communications System – in April 2018.

“The levy is a county-wide public communication system” with funds “earmarked” so they can’t be used for any other reason, Whittaker said.

If passed, homeowners of a $100,000 home would pay  approximately $16 per year, with the levy estimated to generate just over $560,000 per year.

According to emergency responders on the panel, the move to the MARCS communication system will not only benefit the citizens of Darke County during emergency situations, but also the first-responders on the scene.

With the current 5-tower VHF communication system being put in place shortly after 9/11, said Arcanum Fire Chief Kurt Troutwine, the county’s Communications Committee knew it was time for an upgrade.

“We have got the life out of it,” Troutwine said of the current communications system. “We want to make sure everyone is safe.”

Currently, there are areas within the county that prohibit first-responders in communicating with each other, as well as their counterparts in surrounding counties during a mutual aid response.

Hollansburg is just one example of poor radio service, explained Melissa Hawes, Darke County 9-1-1 Coordinator, calling the area a “major safety issue.”

Another area was Union City, Whittaker said, which is why the MARCS radio tower was installed in that area.

Troutwine also pointed out the plan to move to MARCS put the county’s fire departments at the top of the list for state Fire Marshal grant

Questions and information concerning the city’s decision to “follow the county,” as Garrison said, to how the money will be spent and how equipment will be disbursed were answered during the Town Hall.

Also providing information on the upcoming levy were Greenville safety/service director Curt Garrison, Greenville Fire Chief Russ Thompson, Greenville Police Lt. Scott Ross.

The Early Bird Managing Editor Ryan Berry served as moderator.

Those who missed the Town Hall, or who want to watch again are invited to check out The Early Bird Facebook or the city’s You Tube channel. Readers may also look for the video of the Town Hall attached to this article on Bluebag Media.

The deadline to register to vote is Oct. 10, with early voting beginning Oct. 11.

PHOTO CAPTION: A panel of elected officials and first-responders took questions from moderator Ryan Berry, editor of The Early Bird during a communications levy Facebook Live Town Hall meeting on Sept. 27. (Clinton Randall photo)


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