City board approves decision to buy marine radios for $1,449|[02/21/08]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 21, 2008

Marine radios will put Vicksburg police and firefighters in direct communication with traffic on the Mississippi River, including services such as the U.S. Coast Guard and river transport companies such as Ergon Marine & Industrial Supply.

The Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen this week approved $1,449 to buy radios for both departments.

They will enable direct communication between land and river emergency units and allow them to talk to each other on multiple channels, said Bill Ford, information technology specialist for the city.

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Vicksburg Fire Chief Keith Rogers said radio is much better suited to coordinating emergency response than sharing information over the phone.

“In the past, what we would have to do is channel through 911,” Rogers said. The fire department is called upon to dispatch ambulances to landing sites during medical emergencies on the river.

“Our 911 dispatchers get involved in the incident, relaying information back and forth, and they’re still getting flooded with calls. It can overburden our center,” Rogers said.

On Feb. 1, 2007, a fuel tow caught fire and floated downriver. The Vicksburg Fire Department worked with other agencies to designate a site to land the barge, and Rogers said Ergon Marine put him in contact with the captain. Crews with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality extinguished the fire, Rogers said.

Private transport companies are often instrumental in river rescue operations and emergencies, Rogers said. “We have worked with all of them at one point in time or another. They really work well together,” he said.

In 2006, Ergon Marine employees received an award of recognition from the Coast Guard for their rescue of a man whose fishing boat sank 10 miles north of Vicksburg on Aug. 23, 2005.

On Oct. 3, 2007, boats from Ergon Marine and Magnolia Marine Transport Co., among others, were used to round up loose barges that broke free from a 42-barge tow and careened along with the river’s current toward the piers of the U.S. 80 railroad and Interstate 20 bridges. Several struck, but no serious damage was reported, and no one was hurt.

That incident illustrated the sort of situation where direct communication between river rescue and city law enforcement would have been a plus, said Anna Booth, director of Vicksburg’s emergency management efforts.

A major disaster relief exercise set to take place in Vicksburg sometime in March will bring the U.S. Army National Guard, Coast Guard, Federal Emergency Management Agency and many others to Vicksburg.

Emergency coordination will be tested with a scenario that will incorporate many different disaster and relief agencies and test their preparedness and communication.

The scheduled dates for the exercise are not being announced yet, Booth said. Steps will be taken to make sure the public does not confuse the simulated disaster with a real one.

Booth said planning the event drew attention to the need for marine radios.

“When you’re planning for something in an exercise you find out what your gaps are,” Booth said.

On the agenda

Meeting Tuesday, the board:

Honored Vicksburg High basketball coach Dellie C. Robinson on his 500th career win. Robinson notched the win Feb. 5 in a game over Yazoo City. Robinson brought members of the Vicksburg basketball team with him, said the win was an honor and an achievement, and said education was the most important thing to remember.

Conducted a public hearing for Fredia Young, who appealed a Jan. 8 Zoning Board of Appeals decision rezoning 150 Berryman Road to C4, done at the request of developers of a Comfort Inn & Suites to be built on a neighboring lot. The rezoning was done so the hotel development could meet a setback requirement. A house sits on the rezoned parcel, and Young, who owns a home at 151 Berryman, was concerned it could be torn down and replaced with a business. She said she was concerned about the traffic a business would bring. Officials pointed out that since the property was zoned CBR-4, or “light commercial,” such a change could already take place. Another resident, who said her mother lived in a house near the lot proposed for hotel development, said she was worried about what it would do to the character of the area and was worried about other businesses coming in, too.

Opened sealed bids for itemized baseball equipment from Just Duett Sports and Sports Center. Bids for a regenerative-air street sweeper were opened from Covington Sales, of Denham Springs, La., for $127,200 and from Ingram Equipment, Pelham Ala., $130,806.

Did not receive any bids for a prisoner transfer van, and the board voted to readvertise for bids over a suggestion from Mayor Lawrence Leyens to hold off for changes to the city’s arrangements with jails in the region. Legislation allowing Vicksburg to house its prisoners in Louisiana jails is again among requests city officials made to local legislators this year.

Tabled a discussion of an individual’s request to create a basketball program free to kids in fifth to eighth grades at Jackson Street Community Center, telling the promoter he must have an insurance policy before use of the city’s facility can be granted.

Adopted a resolution to cut and clean delinquent properties.

Approved an order for demolition of the following properties: 2502 and 2504 Franklin St., 804 and 922 Meadow St., 2019 Royal St., 722 Bridge St., 2416 Pearl St. and 545 Marcus St.

Approved an invoice from VenuWorks, which runs the Vicksburg Convention Center, for $22,999.

Authorized a requisition to Cook Tractor Company for $10,699 for the purchase of a lawn mower.

In executive session, discussed two litigation matters, five fire department pay adjustments, one community service department pay adjustment, a resignation in the water treatment plant and new hires in the police and parks and recreation department.