Gainesville Amateur Radio Society Problems

The Gainesville Amateur Radio Society has been a serious problem going even as far back as 1987.

In 1987, with the ARRL pushing for clubs to form local ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service) groups to handle communications for local entities during emergencies, Earl Jones/NF4O tried to convince a number of young amateur radio operators to form such an organization here. We brought the idea to GARS with much lauding and clapping for our efforts, but what we didn't understand was that no one seriously believed we might be able to go anywhere with the idea or to actually do anything with it. (sigh) We were so naive, back then.

Earl came to me first, begging me to be the first "Emergency Coordinator" in Alachua County. Realizing immediately what this meant, I did not want the job. I vehemently refused. But Earl kept coming after me to do it. I had no clue what to do. We had no templates to use at the time. There were no real manuals to guide us along. We would need to form agreements and alliances with local emergency management, with local Red Cross, etc. We didn't even have an Emergency Plan, and there was no example documentation out there to go by. Even the budding Emergency Coordinator's Handbook, back in 1987, was a relatively thin one-inch thick, with large type, and it was double-spaced. It had only a few examples of documents and plans which worked well in other locations which dealt with drier environments which experienced droughts, dust storms, and earthquakes, but which actually had nothing at all to do with the local situation, which was drastically different from the others, dealing with hurricanes, tornadoes, and stuff like that.

Together Earl and I went out after a few of the other more anxious hams to try to get them to help us. Ultimately, we found Tim Merrill/KJ4PH (now aretired Deputy from the Alachua County Sheriff's Office), and Chuck Smyder/KB4QBY (now KK4HP).

I just didn't want to be in a position that required all of my attention all of the time, with no peace, and no quiet time to myself, and knowing that most of the ham radio operators in town were all too anxious to applaud you into doing things for them, but who scattered to the WINDS when you needed them. I didn't want to deal with that. I was always the one stuck with all of the work; and I knew exactly what was going to happen if I took the EC position.

So I compromised. I'd take an ASSITANT Emergency Coordinator position if someone else would take the Emergency Coordinator position. So Tim took EC. I accepted the position of AEC-HF Liason (I would handle the HF-related comms because I was heavy with the traffic nets and contesting back then, and Chuck took on the position of AEC-VHF Liason. (He would be in charge of nets and VHF/UHF-related comms).

Next we had to come up with an Emergency Plan, an SOP manual of sorts. We had to get together with local government agencies and form agreements with them, and plans of action.

So the HELL do you do THAT?

There was no plan for how to do that, either. You had to pick up the phone book and call the number, and talk to the person who answered the phone, and basically ask them to find the guy at the very top of the list...and that's who you talked to. For EM, it turned out to be Craig Fugate. For the Red Cross, it was Dick Peterson.

So like...What the hell is an "Emergency Plan?"

What's a "Memorandum of Understanding?"

Do you know? We certainly had no clue. But to make all this happen we had to make one. Okay, great. What do they look like? Where do you find a template to form the first idea with? AH-AH-AH-AH! What are you doing? Nuh, nuh, nuh, nuh! You put that mouse back down! We didn't have the Internet back then. You couldn't just look that sort of stuff up and have an answer in a jiffy minute like you can today. Nope. Sorry. It didn't work like that. You think you're gonna just go to the library and find answers to what a Memorandum of Understanding is? Yah, I tried. They didn't have a single book or document on such a thing. Back then you had a telephone, a telephone modem that you dropped your telephone's handset into, a 286 MHz desktop (yes, that's a 256 MHz chip, not a 3.4 GHz chip - and processing was agonizingly slow by today's comparison), and a 300 baud modem. Note that I said 300 baud, not 56Kbaud, and certainly not 300 megabits/second. You had to dial a long distance number, and log onto something called a "BBS", otherwise known as a "Bulletin Board System". And at 300 baud, or even 1200 baud, or 2400 baud, it took a really long time to look around, do searches, find files, download them, and peruse them.

But as I'd feared, and as you've noticed, I ended up doing just what I had feared. As I had promised myself I would allow to happen to me, I was doing it all, and doing it mostly by myself. (sigh)

So long story short, I had eventually composed an Emergency Plan, and drew up a couple of MoUs for ACOEM and for the Red Cross. I threw the ideas and the documents by Craig and Dick, and they liked the ideas. They were very open to them.

But we weren't prepared for Bill Wells and what he was about to do. And we had no idea the storm that was about to hit us.

Time went on and I created the uniforms. I designed our organizational logo. (I'm in no way an artist, either.) I designed the patch to affix to our uniforms. You know...all that stuff I wasn't going to do. We were so proud of what we were getting done and of the fact that we were getting it done without anyone helping us, and without any outside funds.

Remember, GARS had voted not to help us, or to be a part of us. This is important to know...

We didn't have to let GARS know what we were doing, but we told them anyway in case there was anyone else who wanted to jump on the bandwagon and come on board and help. But instead of finding help, we began to run into hissing, spitting, and threats. We were shocked to learn that instead of being proud along with us, GARS was instead becoming upset with us - mostly in rally behind Bill Wells. ...Always Bill Wells at the forefront of the disgruntlement.

We told them about the uniforms and about the logo we'd come up with. Bill became upset with this. He didn't like that it didn't sport the GARS logo anywheres upon it's surface. "But Bill, wait. You led the vote for the club to not take any responsibility. You VOTED on that. Remember?" "THAT doesn't matter!" decried Bill. "You can't do anything without our approval, first!" "You have to put the GARS logo on the patch or we won't let you use the repeater!" "Excuse me; but Bill, no one has even voted on that. How can you speak for the club without a vote?" And of course, Bill threatened again, and at that, he actually stood before all the old timers and actually convinced them to VOTE on whether another organization that they were not in ownership or control of would sport a GARS logo upon their patch or not. The club took a vote, and it passed. And then Bill issued his ultimatum yet again. HE also didn't like the uniforms, and tried to dictate how those would look. And if we didn't do things HIS way, he threatened to call up Craig and Dick and said that he would convince them not to coopoerate with us.

We all stood there with our mouth agape at the aggressive, threatening stance the Gainesville Amateur Radio Society had taken against us. We thought they were okay with the whole idea. We had no idea this was coming. No one had said a thing. But it quickly became obvious that Bill had apparently been very busy behind our backs. Apparently he felt that we were some sort of a threat to GARS.

I warned the club that such an aggressive stance was basically illegal and that they had voted not to be a part of what we were doing and that what we were doing was of our own efforts and that they had no more right to vote on our progress than they had a right to vote on how the Alachua County Audubon Society would be operated. Bill loudly disagreed and because we were back talking to an old timer and showing him "disrespect", all the other old timers raised their angry voices iin unison with his. Bill was also an excellent speaker, so that helped, too.

On the morning of the day that we were to have the meetings with local EM and the Red Cross, I picked up the phone and called each of them to confirm our appointments, and I was met with a cancellation. When I asked why, they each told me that Bill Wells had called them before me and told them not to cooperate with us. ...All that hard work. ...All of that effort. ...Laid waste at the hands of a spoiled rotten, selfish little brat who didn't get his way. So I guess he figured that if we wouldn't play the game his way, he'd make sure we couldn't play at all.

I quit first realizing that these people were going to make themselves as much of a deliberate pain in the ass as they could for us aqnd that there was nothing that we could do. Chuck quit not long after me. Tim tried to carry it on under the...dictatorship of GARS but, after a while, even Tim gave it up and left. I don't know what happened to Tim after that exactly. Tim disappeared. I'd heard that he'd found employment at the Alachua County Sheriff's Office and that he had become a sheriff. But I didn't see him much if at all after that.

So the Alachua County ARES group was founded by Earl Jones, Tim Merrill, Todd Sherman, and Charles Smyder...and Bill Wells as was erroneously reported in an obituary in the GARSMouth after Bill had died. That really was unfair. The man sabotaged us, and then took credit for our GOD-so-hard-made work. That's a real jerk for you.

Page Created: September 14, 2010.
Page Last Updated: September 14, 2010.

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