Pacific took the first step in setting up an amateur radio repeater atop Blackburn Park, that will tie into repeaters in the region, setting up valuable emergency communication to be used in case of disaster.

Aldermen approved the purchase of a repeater at their Dec. 17 board meeting at a cost of $3,000.

Previous approval had been given for the city to purchase a radio dedicated to amateur, or ham, frequencies for the same amount that was to be installed in the city emergency operations center.

But technology had advanced so much, the city can better serve the emergency communication system with a repeater, according to City Administrator Harold Selby, who is a licensed ham radio operator, KAØXX.

Selby said he did not buy the radio that aldermen had approved a year ago, but did run the cables to the roof and purchased an antenna, which is stored in his office.

“We didn’t install the antenna on the roof because of concerns about wind damage,” he said. “But in case of an emergency, I can put it up in 1 1/2 hours.”

Selby said he was recommending the repeater instead of a single radio after he and Bob Masson, KBØJDY, met with Franklin County emergency management officials about what communication would be needed if a disaster occurred in Pacific and the Interstate 44 corridor.

“Between Bob and me, we have six radios that we could bring here and set up if need be and put in EOC,” he said.

Selby displayed a 1 1/2 by 3 3/4 blue box with cable, which belongs to Masson, that he said would eliminate the need for radio anywhere in the government center. The small apparatus is a DV Dongle, which is a duplex vocoder DSP chip that connects computers via a SUB port to provide amateur radio voice transmissions through the computer.

“This little unit can plug into any computer and the computer becomes an amateur radio that can talk and send messages anywhere in the world through Internet,” Selby said. “It’s very rare new technology. Anyone who has Internet and an amateur radio license can talk to someone in Japan, New Zealand and Bob (Masson) has done that.”

Amateur radio is way ahead of how public services uses ham radio, said Selby, who read a letter from Paul Chambers, Franklin County Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) coordinator, who said he fully supported and welcomed the digital repeater.

“This would be yet another tool that could be utilized for communication needs in cases of disasters or other communication outages,” Chambers said. “Your location along Interstate 44 is also an ideal location due to the fact that it would facilitate communications for relief supplies and personnel into and out of St. Louis.”

Selby said he contacted St Louis and Missouri repeater councils and they also are on board.

Alderman Ed Gass made a motion to purchase the repeater, but added that a battery backup would be needed for the unit in case electricity was out during an emergency. Cost of the battery backup is estimated at $200.

Mike Bates seconded the motion saying that kids from local Boy Scouts, Explorers and Girl Scouts could be introduced to the system when they tour the government center building.

“This could also be used during Cruise Night, and the rodeo for communication,” Selby said.