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Le Mars school's tower could help with 911 communications

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

(Photo)
This radio tower on top of Kluckhohn Elementary School, in Le Mars, is being considered as a possible location to provide back up for 911 fire communications and be a repeater site for the Le Mars Police Department.
Kluckhohn Elementary School may be the solution for relocating a 911 radio communication tower from the Plymouth County Courthouse.

The county E911 board is looking at using a tower on top of the school as backup for the county's fire communication systems and a repeater site for the Le Mars Police Department.

Those services are currently provided via an aging radio tower, which has loose wires and rusted bolts, on top of the courthouse.

Shawn Olson, county 911 coordinator, said the tower on Kluckhohn might be suitable to fulfill those radio communication needs.

"If this one works for us, the one on top of the courthouse will be coming down after we get everything moved that's currently up there," Olson said.

With permission from Le Mars Community Schools Superintendent Dr. Todd Wendt, the 911 board has begun looking into the possibility of using the Kluckhohn tower.

"The tower in general has not been looked at for quite a few years," Olson said. "Our radio vendors wanted to verify the strength of the tower."

Currently the type of antennas being used by the county may have a larger wind load rating than what the tower on Kluckhohn can handle, he explained.

The county's radio vendor is Alpha Wireless, of Spencer.

"They are looking at the tower to see if the two antennas we currently have would work on there or if we have to go with a little bit of a smaller wind load antenna to make that site work," Olson said.

The radio vendor will also be looking at the tower for any structural issues, he said.

The elevation of the radio tower on Kluckhohn is about 125 feet -- the same as the courthouse, Olson said.

"It's sitting on top of pretty much the highest point in Le Mars," Olson said. "Kluckhohn is a pretty tall location in the city."

He said the tower location is also in a fairly clean radio frequency site because there is not a lot of industrial equipment or other radio equipment in the area.

"The only thing that's up there would be an antenna that the school is using for their school bus system," Olson said.

Other than that, the tower on Kluckhohn is not currently being used by LCS, he said.

The tower was originally constructed to provide a data link to the former Kissinger Elementary school, in Merrill, Olson explained.

He estimated the radio tower, which is attached to the elementary school between the round portion of the building and the gym, was built about 15 years ago.

From the school's standpoint, Wendt said he didn't see a problem with the E911 board looking into whether using the Kluckhohn tower would be an option for the county's needs.

"We have a lot of partnerships with the law enforcement and emergency management personnel," he said. "I see this as just another one of those opportunities."

If things move forward, Wendt said he won't recommend any rental fee to the LCS board of education for the E911 board to use the Kluckhohn tower for its needs.

"We have a lot of strong partnerships with them on protection of our students, fire protection, police protection," he said. "I wouldn't see a need to charge them for something that really doesn't require us to do anything. It's all taxpayer dollars anyway."

Olson said he hopes to know whether the tower on Kluckhohn will be a suitable option for the county's 911 radio communication needs within the next month.

At this point, no cost estimates have been developed in relation to relocating those services from the courthouse to the Kluckhohn tower, he said.

"We're going to see what options we can have on that location, even if it's the aspect of replacing the current structure that's there with another one," Olson said.



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