Davison County will stay with its current wireless provider for a first-responder specific network to communicate in emergency situations.
The commission took no formal action but all five of its commissioners said they prefer staying with Verizon rather than moving the county’s cell phones to FirstNet, which is owned by AT&T. That decision was made Tuesday following a presentation by a Verizon representative during the county’s regular meeting at the Davison County North Offices in Mitchell.
FirstNet gave its presentation in December to the commission and had offered as much as $5,000 in one-time rebates and savings if Davison County signed up by the end of the year, but commissioners had said they wanted to meet with Verizon to give them a chance to present as well.
Davison County Emergency Management Administrator Jeff Bathke, who has been discussing the phone options with the companies, said the pricing would mostly be equal after the initial discount was over.
“It’s a wash as far as price or service is concerned right now,” Bathke said.
Davison County Sheriff Steve Brink initially brought forward the plan to switch, saying it would give his department increased communication options and would save the county some on the front end. But he said he understood staying with Verizon after their presentation indicated they offered many of the same features.
Verizon has about an 80 percent market share in South Dakota, said Jeff Griene, who was the company representative who presented to the commission. He also outlined that Verizon has also made millions of dollars of investments into new and updated towers and wireless equipment, including in sites around Mitchell.
“We’re offering all the same things that FirstNet is touting,” Griene said, referencing the ability to preempt non-emergency users of the network, and can also integrate traditional emergency radios into its network.
Griene said it would take a few weeks to update the company’s phones and technology but otherwise, the services and new pricing could begin within days. Davison County will save $2.88 per month, according to documents provided during Tuesday’s meeting and will spend $1,083.18 per month.
The commissioners were all in agreement, with Commissioner Denny Kiner asking, “Why change when it works?” Commission Chairwoman Brenda Bode said she agreed with Kiner and noted that FirstNet’s proposal stimulated some improvements with Verizon.
“We’re going to remain at this time,” she said.
Kiner, Reider running again for seats
Two of Davison County’s commissioners intend to run for re-election to their seats later this year.
Commissioners Randy Reider and Denny Kiner have filed petitions to run for new four-year terms on the Davison County Commission, according to the South Dakota Secretary of State’s website. Both Republicans were uncontested in the 2016 election cycle.
Kiner, who represents District 4, is the second-longest tenured commissioner, serving since 2009, and will seek election for the fourth time. He was appointed to the seat in 2009, elected in 2010 and again in 2012. Kiner represents the northeastern corner of Davison County and north of the Mitchell city limits.
Reider, who has served on the commission since 2013 from District 2, represents the southeastern portion of the city of Mitchell.
If Kiner and Reider have Republican primary competition, a vote will be held on June 2. If they face Independent or Democrat competition, they will be on the general ballot on Nov. 3.
The deadline for party-affiliated candidates to be in the primary election is March 31. The deadline for independent candidates to be on the general election ballot in November is April 28.
There has not been a competitive commission race in the primary or general election since 2014, when the late Gerald Weiss, of Ethan, won the Republican primary in District 3. Commissioners Brenda Bode, John Claggett and Kim Weitala were all unopposed in 2018.