Council welcomes new members; considers joint dispatch, new radio agreement

LeAnda Staebner
Stephenville Empire-Tribune
New Place 1 Stephenville City Councilwoman LeAnn Durfey is sworn in by City Secretary Staci King during Tuesday's meeting.
New Place 3 Stephenville City Councilman Daron Trussell is sworn in by City Secretary Staci King during Tuesday's meeting.
Incumbent Place 5 City Councilman Ricky Thurman is sworn in for another term by City Secretary Staci King at Tuesday's meeting.
Incumbent Place 7 City Councilman Gerald Cook is sworn in for another term by City Secretary Staci King at Tuesday's meeting.

The Stephenville City Council welcomed two new members during a special meeting held Tuesday to canvass the votes from the May 1 general election.

LeAnn Durfey was sworn in to serve in Place 1 and Daron Trussell was sworn in to serve in Place 3. Both were given the oath of office by City Secretary Staci King.

"I look forward to being part of the city council and helping make Stephenville an even better place than it already is," Durfey said.

"I'm excited to be working with the city council and I'm ready to get started," Trussell said.

Durfey replaces Mark McClinton and Trussell replaces Nick Robinson on the council.

Incumbents Ricky Thurman and Gerald Cook were also sworn in by King for an additional term after running unopposed.

In addition to welcoming the new council members, Stephenville Police Chief Dan Harris Jr. and Erath County Sheriff Matt Coates addressed the council concerning forming a joint dispatch among local law enforcement agencies.

"It's an honor to always stand next to the sheriff cause that's the way we are and the way we have been," Harris said.

"We lean on him. He leans on us," Choate added.

The agency leaders had addressed the Erath County Commissioners Court on Monday about the idea for a joint dispatch and were given 30 days to work out a plan to present to both the commission and the city council.

Harris noted that in calendar year 2020, more than 15,000 calls for service were received through dispatch just in the city.

The chief also addressed the council about the need for upgraded emergency radios as his department continues to struggle with outdated and malfunctioning communications equipment. 

In addressing the council concerning the agenda item for approval of a System Purchase Agreement between the city and L3-Harris Technologies Inc., Harris said the radios that his department is currently using are outdated, difficult to repair and could pose a threat to his officers.

Harris related an incident in May 2020 in which he and a department sergeant had a burglary suspect cornered at the same time a multi-vehicle accident had many of his officers occupied. He said when he tried to use his radio to call for backup, he had to wait several minutes before he got a response due to the radio not working properly.

Per the agenda packet: "Our current and traditional radio system is dangerously inadequate and is an officer and public safety issue. Joining the newly created Granbury Regional Radio Network (GRRN) and purchasing the dispatch, mobile, and portable L3-Harris radio systems will substantially improve our communications while increasing our first responders' safety, as well as the safety of the citizens and visitors of Stephenville.

"GRRN will create interoperability between local agencies that is currently non-existent. L3Harris has carefully researched and studied our city’s existing communications, system locations, current land usage and communications needed resulting in this proposal for a long-term state-of-the-art voice, interoperability, data and access IP based network platform solution," the chief reported.

The cost for the new system is estimated at $1 million to $1.5 million with multi-year finance options available. The system would begin to be included in the budget for next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, according to the agenda summary.

"This system will save millions due to joining the GRRN vs. creating our own radio network," Harris concluded in the agenda summary.

He added that by joining the multi-agency GRRN, the radio system would be available to any agency that they give access to, including not only the police and sheriff's offices, but EMS personnel, Stephenville Fire Department and Tarleton PD, among others.

"They (officers) need to know that when they push this button, we're going to know where they are and that they need help," Harris said.

The council unanimously gave approval for Harris to begin researching and moving forward with the emergency radio upgrade process.

"Thank you very much for what y'all do cooperatively," Mayor Doug Svien said to Harris and Choate. "It would be easy to have territorialism, step on toes and whatever. It was obvious from our meeting the other day you guys work well together and we appreciate that."