By Chris Johnson


PECATONICA – Public safety is an issue that does not discriminate based on population totals. Many of the problems that communities such as Rockford, Elgin and Aurora face can also affect smaller communities such as Pecatonica, Seward and Durand. Crime just doesn’t occur at the elevated rate in a small town setting, as it does in the larger municipal centers.

Pecatonica Police Chief Bob Smith said that doesn’t mean the Village can’t be ready if an emergency situation surfaces.

“In the event of some calamity, you would have a large group of first responders rendering their services. But, after 2017, they may not be able to communicate with each other. We have to make an investment in some new equipment that will help fire personnel talk to police personnel and public safety personnel and so on.”

Smith said right now those independent agencies use communication systems that allow for members within their own department the opportunity to discuss the current situations as they happen.

A purchase of new radio equipment is going to be needed. It isn’t an option. It’s a matter of public safety, Smith said.

“Right now our Sheriff’s Department operates on a VHF system. Other departments have their own systems, so emergency responders can’t communicate with each other, without some form of third-party assistance. We are going to have to spend a portion of our budget to purchase Starcom Radios. This has to be done by 2017. Otherwise we could be looking at being left in the dark.”

The $33,000 price tag for the purchase of the new radio system will be paid for from a special fund which collects at a rate of approximately $14,000 a year.

Smith said if the Village doesn’t make the investment, as other emergency departments do, there is going to be the risk of the loss of needed services.

Time is running out to get this project online, Smith explained.

“This is to create a talk group. We will buy them next fiscal year, but we won’t activate them until the Sheriff’s Department does. Right now they are operating on the old VHF System. They know it’s going to cost more to repair their older system, than it will be to switch. Because of 9/11, our world become aware those agencies could not communicate with each other. The police talked to police and the fire personnel talked to each other. It was the same for the public works departments. They could not effectively exchange information in real time.”

Since the residents of Pecatonica determined they did not wish to spend any extra money on police protection, with the failure of a tax referendum in 2015, the Police Department has had to try to do what it could to assure things continued to flow smoothly for the Village’s residents.

Had the referendum passed, according to reports, the Village would have received over $150,000 in additional tax dollars.

Some of those funds would have been used for improvements to the department.

Smith said the State of Illinois had programs available to assist the public safety issues of communities.

That is where the dollars, collected over a series of seasons, have come from.

Now they will have to be spent.

If not, Smith said, Pecatonica will fall way behind and not even able to stay informed on any situation affecting northern Illinois.

“At this point, the Winnebago County Sheriff Department dispatches all our calls. We are pretty much at the control of what the Sheriff will do. We have to migrate to this system. If we don’t have the Starcom radios, we won’t have a way to communicate directly with the Sheriff, Illinois State Police, Stephenson County Rockford or even Durand.”

Also, as a result of the failure of the 2015 tax increase referendum, Smith said his department has been operating at a rate of about one-third less, as local officers patrol the Village’s roadways.

That, however, hasn’t seemed to impact the need and availability of police services for the Village residents, since a cooperative effort with the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department has taken root.

“It’s true. We reduced our hours of service to about 70 percent of the calendar, with our local officers on patrol, but since the public made the decision, I can’t say they were wrong.”

Keeping on a regular schedule, the Public Safety Department will present its findings during the upcoming Committee of the Whole Meeting.

The members gather on the first Thursday of every month at 6 p.m.

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