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Piney reeve welcomes FleetNet replacement

By: Geralyn Wichers

Posted: 08/16/2018 10:00 AM

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Piney Reeve Wayne Anderson is glad to hear the province will replace its aging public safety communication system, but said cell coverage is "what we really do need."

The province announced last Wednesday it had awarded the tender to Bell Mobility to replace the outdated FleetNet system used by fire, ambulance, and police services, and the very high frequency radio system employed by conservation officers and forest fire-fighting crews.

The upgrades will take place over the next three years.

"During an emergency, it’s essential that we have reliable communications service across the province including in rural and remote areas," Premier Brian Pallister said in a release. "This new digital two-way mobile radio system will provide expanded coverage over a more secure network and improve the safety of our first responders."

Anderson acknowledged the FleetNet system, which the RM of Piney uses for public works functions and the fire department, has gone down a few times but not during anything important.

In October 2011, 27 fire departments battled grass fires in the RMs of Stuartburn, Piney, La Broquerie and Reynolds. The FleetNet system was at times overwhelmed by the number of communications, and left requests stuck in a queue.

At the time, Piney's chief administrative officer, Martin Van Osch, said a lack of cell service made efforts to keep residents safe more difficult. RM of La Broquerie fire chief Alain Nadeau said cell service was a huge factor in their ability to relay information. Emerson MLA Cliff Graydon was also critical of cell service in the area.

Anderson said the call for cellular service following the deadly Alonsa tornado at the beginning of the month was "exactly the same thing we’ve been talking about."

Piney has been asking Bell MTS to expand their currently patchy coverage "for years," Anderson said. He said the cellular provider is starting to heed their concerns.

Anderson said the RM is looking into hiring an emergency alert system, which would broadcast to local residents and send automated messages to those, such as seniors, who only have landlines.

Meanwhile, Anderson hinted that something was in the works for cell coverage in Piney, but was not at liberty to give details. He said people would be "pleasantly surprised."

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