Crawford County Firefighters Association - "Main Fire Tower"

"Main Fire Tower"

Crawford County Firefighters Association - "Main Fire tower"
The current Crawford County Firefighters Association 320' guyed tower site north of Denison was originally built by Farmland Foods in 1960 to support communications between their hog buyers and the main plant.

in the late 1970's as more of the fire department s located in Crawford County started using pagers as a means of notification it was evident we need a tower site that offered better county wide coverage than the tower at the Courthouse.
Around 1979 the Crawford County secondary roads and the county fire departments relocated transmitters to the site and leased space from Farmland Foods.

In 1999 Farmlands food declared the site excess property and offered it for sale to the Crawford County Fire Departments. Shortly after that the county fire departments organized into a tax exempt organization and purchased the site for $13,000. Several of the board of directors of the association signed a promissory note with the Crawford County Trust and Savings bank to finance the purchase and the county fire association took possession in July of 2000.

In those early years we charged each Fire Department annual dues to make our bank payment, utilities and property maintenance. We were able to secure lease agreements with various tenants and before we knew it the 8' x 8' concrete block radio shack was "stuffed to the ceiling" explained Duane Zenk site manager for the county fire association.

By 2004 our loan had been paid off and it was apparent we needed more space for transmitters, so the county fire association approved and funded a 8' x 12' addition at the site which was constructed by volunteers from various county fire departments.
So now everything appears to be working well, annual maintenance from lightning strikes and other repairs are completed to keep the site operational.

In 2014 the Federally mandated "narrow banding" rules took an expensive toil on the emergency response agencies across the nation. Radios, both portable and mobile, base transmitters and pagers had to be upgraded to digital signal compatibility, the secondary effect of narrow banding was greatly reducing radio signal coverage, which made it difficult for emergency personnel to communicate through paging and normal radio traffic.

Throughout the 2014 year it was discussed at every Crawford county firefighters meeting that we needed to take action to enhance our communications system. In the fall of 2014 the Crawford County Firefighters association organized the "communications committee" which was co-chaired by Dow City Fire Chief Joe Gordon and Manilla Fire Chief Cory Gaskill. Other members to this committee were Greg Miller (EMA) Sheriff Jim Steinkuehler, Charter Oak Firefighter Kyle Schultz, Bruce Musgrave CCMH and Duane Zenk (E911/ Denison Fire) .

This committee took up the challenge of formulating a needs assessment of a Land Mobile Radio system for Crawford County.

We started this daunting task by searching for Professional Consultants that have completed other similar assessments. We then formulated a request for proposals and sent them out to the various consulting firms, when proposals were returned the committee interviewed what we felt were the top two companies and conducted telephone interviews with them and then in august of 2015 selected G J Therkelsen and Associates of Chaska MN, this firm had previous experience in Iowa completing studies for several other counties.

The cost of this study was $30,000, the committee met with local elected officials who agreed to fund the study on a per capita basis and CCMH funded $5,000.

The consultant's study indicated that the first step was to replace the aging county fire antenna structure, communications shed and generator system which were operating many years past their typical life span.

Property manager and E911 administrator Duane Zenk located a grant of state e911 funds of up to $100,000 to assist with the construction of communications sites, the only catch as the tower had to be standing by June 30, 2016. A tower engineer was selected, plans were developed and estimates were pulled together. A State Historical Preservation study, a Tribal Historical preservation study was completed along with FCC and FAA licenses and approvals (yes, even if your building a replacement tower 18.5' from the existing) and submitted for approval. Many of these approvals allow 4 to 6 weeks for the governing body to respond.

Amazing enough on June 29th of 2016 the site was clear of contractors and the new 320' guyed tower was in place. Thanks to the help of several local contractors completing excavation, forming, reinforcement placement, running of cement, backfilling and other numerous items.

Shortly after July the committee located a 10' x 16' decommissioned cell site communications shack. the county fire association paid $10,000 to purchase this structure and eventually it was set on a concrete slab at the site near the newly constructed tower.

The total cost of the tower and shelter upgrade project which should have a life span of 40 years is around $160,000 paid from E911 funds and the Crawford County Firefighters association. which is less incidentally than 50% of the consultants estimate. this can be attributed to using local contractors and existing personnel to manage the project.

We plan to have the new tower in service and the old tower removed by July 2017.

This tower site replacement is only one small piece of the puzzle to upgrade our emergency service radio system in Crawford County. We are currently working on a project to locate transmitters and antennas on a new tower near Schleswig and other parts of our county as opportunities present themselves.

In addition to paging for all Fire and EMS responders in Crawford County, this site provides locations for transmitters of the National Weather Service, Emergency Management, Crawford County Hospital and Crawford County secondary roads.