County amateur radio now a FEMA-certified communications team

Wed, 10/18/2023 - 8:45am

There has been a significant change in the County Emergency Management Agency’s amateur radio team. In the past six months, members have used a substantial amount of their vacation time attending Federal Emergency Management Agency training sessions. Their dedication has resulted in Lincoln County becoming a FEMA-recognized communications unit. 

County EMA Director Maury Prentiss made the announcement during the Oct. 18 commissioners’ meeting. Amateur radio members took summer training classes for certification in communication technicians, auxiliary communications and unit leader classes. “Some took all three,” Prentiss said. “With all these trainings, we now, in Lincoln County, have by definition a FEMA-recognized communications unit (COMU).” The COMU is a role within the logistics section of the Incident Command System and designed to support the operable and interoperable communications needs for planned and unplanned events.”

Members of the County Communications team are Assistant EMA Director Emily Huber, John Oakes, Jason Cates, Damon Leibert and Prentiss. The designation allows for integration into a federal response structure if a federal agency arrives in Lincoln County. “There are no other county-sponsored communications in the state with the capabilities and knowledge to do what this team can do,” Prentiss said. “The hard work and dedication does not go unnoticed. To say that I’m proud is an understatement.”

Prentiss awarded team leader John Oakes with a certificate of accomplishment for the team’s achievement. Earlier this month, the team demonstrated its trainings at Pumpkinfest in Damariscotta. Prentiss reported the festival has invited the team back next year. Piscastaquis County EMA has invited the team for an event this April.

In other action, Finance Director Michelle Richardson updated commissioners about the sheriff’s office building structural assessment. In June, the county hired Gale Associates of Portland to perform the assessment. Gale has collected its data, and Richardson expects a draft report by month’s end.

Commissioners approved purchasing a new lawn mower for the maintenance department. Commissioners voted, 3-0, to spend up to $6,500 for a Chad Little Power Sport Mover with a leaf collector. County Administrator Carrie Kipfer will ask Lincoln County Recycling if it wants to use the current mower which needs repairs. 

Courthouse flood lights are supposed to illuminate the building, but the poles are no longer standing erect. Commissioners approved spending $3,815.58 to replace the poles and equip them with LED (light emitting diodes) lights. 

A former employee has been rehired as a maintenance technician. Commissioners approved rehiring Rhonda Richardson to her former job. “I had a great experience with her when she previously worked here and I’m glad she is returning,” Kipfer said.

The county will pay less for heating oil this season. Commissioners authorized buying up to 18,500 gallons at $3.44 per gallon. Last season, the county paid $3.86 per gallon to M.W. Sewall in Bath. After watching the oil market this spring and summer, Kipfer recommended commissioners re-enter an agreement with M.W. Sewall. The fuel will heat the courthouse, sheriff’s office and planning commission building.

Commissioners have made the planning commission building the designated emergency center. This is the plan if the communications center becomes incapacitated. But the commission building does not have a generator. Commissioners solved that problem by purchasing one from Mid-Maine Generator in Wiscasset. The county needs to make a down payment, but Kipfer told commissioners she expects the entire $13,987 will be paid by a Homeland Security Grant.

Commissioners meet next at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 7 in the courthouse.