A fight is brewing between Franklin and neighboring St. Louis County over radio frequencies and equipment needed by first responders to communicate in bicounty emergencies.
The ongoing issue was brought to the forefront again Tuesday when the Franklin County commission was asked to use its Geographical Information System (GIS) by the Metro West Fire Protection District.
Second District Commissioner Dave Hinson asked his colleagues to table the request until further discussions can be had with Metro West and other neighboring St. Louis County emergency departments.
The reason, he says, is that the St. Louis County departments have been less than cooperative in the past with allowing Franklin County first responders easy access to communications.
“I hate to use this as leverage, but every time interoperability comes up, it falls on deaf ears,” Hinson said. “This comes down to the safety of our responders. We’re supposed to be able to communicate.”
Currently, there are agreements in place for the two counties to use each others’ frequencies when they are operating at aid incidents on either side of the county line.
But, Hinson says although Franklin County upheld its end of the deal, St. Louis County did not.
“St. Louis County told our departments they could not use their codes in our existing radios,” Hinson said. “If the Franklin County departments didn’t buy specific radios, St. Louis County would not program them.”
Hinson believes the radio frequencies should be offered to Franklin County without the new radio requirement due not only to the high expense, but the fact it limits the aid Franklin County can offer.
“I’m pretty much done with St. Louis County dictating what we can and can’t do,” Hinson said. “Then they want something from us all the time.”
Hinson added he feels St. Louis County is basically using the specific radio equipment simply as an excuse not to give up its radio frequencies and did not like Franklin County having them.
“We are supposed to have nationwide interoperability and we can’t even communicate with a neighboring county,” Hinson said. “This comes down to our departments not being able to assist St. Louis County residents.”
Hinson stressed his anger and frustration is not directed at Metro West Fire Protection District specifically, but to the entire St. Louis County emergency system as a whole.
“I don’t know what else to do,” Hinson. “I’ve talked to (County Executive) Steve Stenger and his chief of staff. I guess we just have to start telling them ‘No.’ ”
Hinson added similar mutual aid and communication agreements also are in place with St. Charles and Jefferson counties, but they are not having the same communication issues.