Dadeville Fire Department

File / The Outlook 

Fire chief Scott Atkins said Dadeville Volunteer Fire Department will have to scrape by on a weak radio channel for another few months after learning what the cost of repair would be.

"I finally got a quote back late yesterday and I'm afraid it's not going to be an option," Atkins told the mayor and city council Tuesday. "The total quote was $20,000."

Atkins said the quote includes $15,000 in parts and $5,000 in labor, which would involve climbing the water tower behind the fire station where the broken antenna is located. Upon hearing the price, Mayor Jimmy Frank Goodman loudly cleared his throat while several other meeting attendees dramatically clutched their chests.  

Earlier this month, the new fire chief approached the mayor and city council to address several issues he'd discovered, including the fact the fire department has been relying on weak radio communications ever since its main radio antenna was storm-damaged in April.

"We have had communication problems," Atkins said at the March 9 council meeting. "We cannot talk to one another."

For the past 11 months, the fire department has been using a different radio channel with a shorter tower that does not reach its entire coverage area, Atkins reported. While Tallapoosa County's E 9-1-1 emergency dispatch system will soon be updated to a new digitized system, that update is several months away.

Earlier this month, Atkins said the update wasn't expected for another five months at least.

"I can't wait till August to have communications; we've got to be able to talk," he said. At the time, Atkins expected it to cost between $500 and $5,000.

On Tuesday, however, Atkins said the new system was only two or three months away, making the $20,000 repair not worth it.

"If this was going to be a system that we'd use for years and years and years that would be one thing, but we're just trying to make it until the county swaps over to the new system which will be two or three months," he said. "So, I don't see spending the $20,000 for just two or three months."

Atkins said he had one more solution to look into but "I guess right now we're stuck with what we've got," he said.

Atkins, formerly assistant fire chief at Opelika Fire Department, was appointed Dadeville fire chief on March 3. His appointment filled a vacancy left by former fire chief Keith Wilkerson who the council removed by unanimous vote last month.

Later in the meeting, Goodman thanked Atkins and the fire and police departments in general in his mayor's remarks. Goodman also assured Atkins his lack of funds wasn't a lack of endorsement.

"(Atkins) has found a couple of the firetrucks that are in danger of needing work real bad, tires and so forth," Goodman said. "Chief, you're doing a good job, just don't get discouraged. We move slow because we are short of funds. But we are definitely behind you 100%."

The mayor told the fire chief he only refuses to pay for some things "because we write the check and they throw it back at us."

Goodman also addressed some complaints about the police department he said he received over the weekend.

"Unfortunately, it was some of my folks that did this," Goodman said. "But you can't pick your family. But if we all just worked together, try to come together as one, and treat everybody the way that they need to be treated, let's let the police do their job; let's let the fire department do their job."