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Baraga County debates replacing emergency communication system

Problems with emergency communications took center stage at meetings of both the Baraga County Board of Commissioners and the L’Anse Village Council last night. At the L’Anse Council meeting, village fire chief Mike Bianco explained that the system that connects law enforcement and first responders via radio and pagers had recently been down for three weeks. Repairs lasted only one week before the aging system failed again.

Bianco said the backup plan is an old-fashioned telephone tree, in which firefighters need to be called individually, which can cost precious time in responding to an emergency.

At the county board meeting, Sheriff Joe Brogan told commissioners that the current system uses an old frequency that’s not compatible with radios used by other first responders in the region. The system has never provided consistent service to some areas of the county, including Covington and Arvon Townships. The Baraga County 911 committee recently decided to begin a system-wide upgrade. An initial investment of $60,000 will provide a new radio and paging system for the sheriff’s department, L’Anse and Baraga police, and the seven volunteer fire departments that serve the county. Brogan said there is enough money in the county’s 911 fund to cover the cost, but suggested that COVID-19 relief money may be able to be used, instead.

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