By Elise Franco
Township officials are working with Canfield city to enhance the Austintown Fire Department’s radio-dispatch signal.
Jim Davis, Austintown trustee chairman, said the township recently looked into finding a new location for the fire department’s backup radio antenna, now at the Austintown Police Department.
Davis said the fire department is operating under the backup radio system because the regular 800-MHz frequency system needed to be rebanded. This means the frequencies will be moved to reduce the chance of interference between public- safety services and cellular services.
Fire Chief Andy Frost Jr. has said when the trucks get to certain outskirts, they’re unable to communicate to dispatch, Davis said. “They can’t get any sort of frequency on these radios because the antenna isn’t up high enough.”
He said often firefighters aren’t able to communication with one another.
“We’re talking about the safety of our firefighters,” Davis said. “I don’t like to hear they don’t have the proper communications.”
Assistant Chief Andy Frost III said the backup antenna at the police station is only about 80 feet in the air. Frost said moving the antenna will alleviate the problem.
“We’re having a real problem especially over in the Cornersburg and Wickliffe areas, in those extreme corners,” he said. “Moving the antenna is going to put us so much higher in the air, we’ll have all the areas covered.”
Davis said the trustees hoped to put the antenna on the Austintown water tower on Kirk Road, which is owned by the city of Youngstown, but had to move to plan B after speaking with city officials.
“I called Mayor [Jay] Williams and explained the potential for collaborative effort and said, ‘Here’s a good opportunity for the city to work with the township,’” Davis said.
He said Williams checked with the city water department and was told that moving the antenna to the city-owned tower wasn’t possible because of security concerns, such as giving the township access to the water tower to do any necessary maintenance on the antenna.
Williams said Friday that a meeting will be set to further discuss use of the Kirk Road tower, although plans are already shaping up to move the antenna to Canfield.
The meeting is at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Youngstown Water Department, Davis said.
Davis said after looking into other options within the township, trustees met with Canfield City Manager Joe Warino to discuss placing the antenna on a tower off state Route 11.
“We explained to [Canfield] our situation,” Davis said. “We need to do a study to find out if our antenna will interfere with the ones that are already up there, and as long as that study comes back fine, they will grant us permission.”
Warino said Canfield sees no safety issue with granting Austintown access to its tower.
“From the discussion we’ve had, I think this is an emergency situation,” he said. “There’s a little bit of ground work that can be done. Once we test the system, we can get into a little more detail on the placement and timing.”
Davis said because the tower is outside township boundaries, the antenna’s frequency will need rezoned to include Canfield as well, which will cost about $500, in addition to installation.
He said moving the antenna to the Kirk Road tower wouldn’t have cost the township anything extra.
Warino said the city is glad to help Austintown solve a major safety problem.
“If we can provide assistance to Austintown, I think it will be better for all of us,” he said.
Davis said the trustees and fire personnel are “elated.”
“We looked at every possible option within our township, and it seemed like there was just always a hangup,” he said.
“Canfield is coming to our rescue to save us ... And that’s what good neighbors do.”