Monday, June 14, 2021

Crawford County seeking compliance with LMR tower code in response to State Auditor report

Auditor of State Rob Sand today released a report on a review of the Ridge Road Communication Tower operated by the Crawford County Firefighters Association (CCFFA) for the period July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2020. The review was conducted in cooperation with the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (Department) to determine if the Crawford County 911 Service Board was in compliance with Chapter 34A of the Code of Iowa and the requirements of the Wireless 911 Carryover Funds awarded to the Crawford County 911 Service Board to construct a new 320-foot communications tower to update the emergency services Land Mobile Radio system.

“This issue was recently brought to our attention. We fairly regularly look at compliance issues,” said Sand. “You've got to follow the law. No matter who you are.”

Sand reported the Ridge Road Tower was owned and operated by CCFFA and as a result, Crawford County and the Crawford County 911 Service Board are not in compliance with Chapter 34A of the Code of Iowa and the requirements of the Wireless 911 Carryover Funds which requires 911 emergency telephone communication systems to be operated under governmental management and control for the public benefit.

“The problem is the Firefighters Association is a non-profit. So, we looked into that and issued a report to make sure that the operation and ownership of it gets transferred as it is supposed to be,” said Sand. “You want to make sure that in emergencies there is consistency as opposed to confusion.”

Sand also reported, CCFFA has collected $49,367 of lease revenue for use of the Ridge Road Tower for fiscal years 2017 through 2020. Based on the available records, CCFFA paid a total of $31,181 for utilities, property taxes and insurance related to the operations of the Ridge Road Tower. Because the tower is required to be operated and managed by the County, the $18,186 of lease revenue which was not used by CCFFA for the operations and maintenance of the tower should be remitted to the Crawford County 911 Service Board or the County.

“We do not show in our report the idea that any of this money was spent illegally,” said Sand. “It seems like everything other than this compliance in operation issue was still working.”

Crawford County Board of Supervisors chairperson Jeri Vogt says the tower operations loom larger than the money as they look to move forward.

“What are their expectations from us? We've got about a $300,000 tower on their land. How do they want to proceed? Do they want to sell us the land? Do they want to lease us the land? That's kind of the whole thing right now,” said Vogt. “The board's position is we definitely want to touch base with the Firefighters and do what we have to do to get this all ironed out.”

Vogt says they are looking to continue updating the LMR system overall.

“We're trying to put up systems in Charter Oak, Manilla, Dow City, and the Westside-Vail area,” said Vogt. “It's a project that's needed to be done for a few years.”

Copies of the report have been filed with the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and the Crawford County Attorney’s Office. A copy of the report is available for review on the Auditor of State’s web site at https://www.auditor.iowa.gov/reports/audit-reports/.

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