Public Safety Committee chairman Randy Preston listens as Emergency Services Director Don Jaquish talks about turning the former Bookmobile into a mobile communications headquarters.
Three counties that have funded the former Bookmobile may get the vehicle for use as a mobile communications and command post.
At the Essex County Public Safety Committee meeting June 11, Emergency Services Director Don Jaquish said the counties of Franklin and Clinton approached him about using the former Bookmobile, which was operated by the Clinton-Franklin-Essex Library System, as a mobile command post which would be able to coordinate different radio systems to allow for better communications.
Jaquish said that the proposal would not add any expenses, but supervisors had questions.
“I know that it is free and nice to have, but at some point down the road I am sure that it is going to cost us money,” Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava said. “It's a piece of equipment that would be nice to have, but it’s not critical.”
“I have concerns down the road that this vehicle would be in the neighborhood of $400,000 if it had to be replaced,” Wilmington Supervisor Randy Preston said.
“We are cutting costs and selling things and we are going to add on a second-hand bookmobile for a command center,” Chesterfield Supervisor Gerald Morrow said. “We do work with these counties, and want to continue, but the key thing is no costs to the county and no future costs to the county.”
“If there is a cost, we would try to fund it through Homeland Security and funds that we have in place,” Jaquish said. “I can't guarantee that this would not have a cost with it in the future.”
Jaquish said that Franklin County had already signed on to fit the vehicle, while Clinton County would take care of the maintenance.
“If Franklin County will be retro-fitting the vehicle and Clinton will be maintaining it, so I can't see how we could not go along with this,” Morrow said. “The other two counties are going through with this either way, so I would think it would be foolish of us not to go along.”
North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi wondered why there was a need for a mobile communications center.
“I thought that the purpose of spending $10 million on a communications system was so we would be able to communicate throughout the county,” Politi said. “Are you telling me that we will still not be able to communicate with some people once it is done?”
“There are departments that our communications system would not work with in some situations because their systems are different,” Jaquish said. “You have to program the systems in order to get them to work together and that can take time.”
Elizabethtown Supervisor Margaret Bartley said that she felt it would be useful in some situations.
“I just think about the situation that we had here with the crash on the Northway where several people died and there was no communications there,” she said.
Board chairman Randy Douglas said that he would go along with the recommendation, but said other agencies have similar vehicles in emergency situations.
“FEMA came in with one of these rigs like this and parked it right next to our office,” Douglas said. “It is something that they use for any large-scale event.”
“When the bridge went out SEMO had a big vehicle there and the State Police also had one,” Scozzafava added.
“This would be used for any large-scale event where multiple agencies are involved and separate radio systems are used,” Jaquish said. “It would usually be a long-term event, something where it would be needed over several days.”
Scozzafava felt that there also was another option for the vehicle.
“I think that the library committee should sell it as surplus and use that money toward their needs,” he said. “I would move a resolution to do away with any covenant that they have with the county so they can do what they please with the bus.”
The motion passed through committee, 5-2, and will now go before the Ways and Means Committee June 25.