Billings council donates to radio repeater upgrades

KAGAWONG – Billings township council has agreed to donate funds toward an upgrade to the emergency communications repeater, as requested by the Manitoulin Amateur Radio Club Inc. (MARC).

“For emergency management purposes this is very valuable, and not just for our municipality, but all of Manitoulin Island,” said Ian Anderson, mayor of Billings Township at a regular council meeting held this past Monday. 

Mayor Anderson pointed out MARC Inc. requested a financial contribution of between $700 to $1,000 from Billings Township towards the overall cost of unanticipated costs of a tower analysis; with the club having already fundraised to cover the costs of installing upgraded equipment.

“I’m sure everyone has read the background material on this. The radio club has fundraised and provided a considerable amount of their own money towards the upgrade in equipment for the radio tower,” said Mayor Anderson. The club and their equipment provides critical service to the Township of Billings for emergency management purposes at no cost, he pointed out.

“I agree, it’s very important,” stated Councillor Sharon Alkenbrack, who along with Councillor Sharon Jackson both agreed the township should donate $1,000 towards the costs.

Allan Boyd, president of the Manitoulin Amateur Radio Club Inc. explained in a letter to council: “As president of MARC and section manager for the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) program I am writing this letter in hopes of obtaining some financial assistance to maintain the radio club’s main repeater system which provided Manitoulin Island and North Shore wide coverage for emergency communications.”

“As you are aware under your Emergency Operations Plan, the Manitoulin Amateur Radio Club Inc. is written into it to provide emergency communications should a declared emergency or disaster occur. Your municipal CEMC is fully aware of this. Thus, the reasons for having an amateur radio station installed at your Emergency Operations Centre.”

Mr. Boyd said “in 1988, when the club was formed, we approached the CBC to obtain permission to place the radio system at their site and the antennal on the tower. Since the club’s radio repeater has been on the CBC tower site, the Manitoulin Amateur Radio Club have been able to provide emergency communications to local municipalities and First Nations communities. We assist emergency service personnel in times of civil emergency or disaster in providing back up communications using the club’s radio equipment free of charge. Because of this service permission was granted to install our radio system at the CBC tower site located just outside Little Current and provide for excellent radio communications over a 100 kilometre radius.”

“You may or may not be aware as you have many new councillors, your municipality is part of the Island-wide emergency communications plan,” continued Mr. Boyd. “When this plan was put in place an emergency amateur radio station was erected and set up in your Emergency Operations Centre. This gives your municipality access to the Island-wide repeater system which is written in your own municipal emergency plan. The repeater system is the main component of the club and our original system is over 25 years old and is starting to be in disrepair. We have been soliciting for donation of funds with the goal to purchase a completely new system to continue to provide the community service we do. I am happy to report we have secured the funds to purchase and replace the following equipment: a new four-bay dipole commercial antenna, Heliax hardline (Coax) cable 350-foot run; the cost of hiring a rigger crew to take down the old and install the new equipment on the tower. The cost of this is over $10,000 which the club has raised through donations,” he continued.

Mr. Boyd explained, “the issue the club faces is that for us to complete this new upgrade of this equipment the CBC requires us to have a tower analysis completed by a certified transmission engineer which is a requirement under federal structure code. This is an added expense we did not anticipate. I understand that each municipality has a budget line item that your CEMC can use for emergency planning. Since our club has provided this service to your municipality free of charge and have maintained the cost of the equipment and the hydro to run it; and a $5 million dollar Insurance Liability Policy each year we are asking for a donation to this program to be able to contribute towards the tower analysis study. Once the report is completed then we can proceed with the installation of the new antenna and cable to be able to continue to provide your municipality with this emergency communications service, which is a requirement under the Ontario regulations in emergency planning for your municipality.”

“The cost of the tower analysis report is approximately $3,500 so I am requesting consideration from your municipality to donate $750 to $1,000 from your emergency planning budget to help  our club complete the installation project so that your municipality will continue to have emergency communication coverage for decades to come with no additional expense.”

Similar letters have been sent to those municipalities who signed on the amateur radio service plan years ago, including NEMI, Billings, Gore Bay, Gordon-Barrie Island, Central Manitoulin and Assiginack. 

Billings council passed a motion to donate $1,000 the tower analysis to be carried out. Mr. Boyd pointed out NEMI previously provided a donation of $750.

Mr. Boyd told the Recorder similar requests have been sent to all those municipalities who signed on to the Amateur Radio serviced plan years ago, including NEMI, Billings, Gore Bay, Gordon-Barrie Island, Central Manitoulin and Assiginack. Along with the Billing donation NEMI provided a donation of $750.