Final payment for two digital radio repeaters purchased by the county last summer is expected to be voted on at the Tuesday, Feb. 11 fiscal court meeting. The repeaters, which cost approximately $223,000, were put in the areas of Auburn and Lewisburg to help increase emergency service radio reception with the 911 dispatch center. The final payment is $75,958.
The repeaters are part of a multi-site system that was purchased by the county in 2009 for over a half a million dollars. The system was updated after reports started coming in claiming the old system was causing safety concerns among those emergency service workers out in the field who could not connect to dispatch or each other.
A repeater is a combination of a radio receiver and a radio transmitter that receives a weak or low-level signal and retransmits it at a higher level or higher power, so that the signal can cover longer distances without degradation. When the county bought the new multi-site digital radio system over five years ago, the contract called for at least three repeater tower sites, with the option for a fourth. Magistrates, however, started out with only one, which was placed on Reservoir Hill in Russellville, until they realized one was not going to be enough.
Auburn Fire Chief Jeff Gregory found himself in a dangerous situation a few years ago when he came face to face with an armed arsonist who drew a gun and pointed it directly at the firefighter. Gregory, who ran, could not reach the 911 dispatch as he attempted to call for help. Thankfully the arsonist’s gun misfired and Gregory was able to run far enough away to protect himself.
“The system seems to be going good now,” said Gregory. “The additional tower in Auburn is making a big difference. We are not having any issues in town so far, and have been able to hear one another on our radios inside structures. There are still a few small bugs here and there, but the system is ten-fold better than it was. I feel much safer now than I did.”
Ginger Lawrence, director for the Emergency Communications Center (ECC/911), said coverage is a whole lot better than it was before the two repeaters were put up.
“We are still working out a few kinks with the system in certain areas, but I am very pleased with the outcome of the system,” said Lawrence, who reminds everyone that no system works in one hundred percent of a county. “This system was built as a multi-site system, which means more than one repeater. The two that were recently put up, joining the one on Reservoir Hill in Russelville, makes the system more complete. However, in the future there may be a need for additional towers.”
It’s just like a cell phone, says Lawrence. The more towers you have, the better coverage you’re gonna have. But for now, everyone seems to be happy.
Lawrence added they are still keeping a log of any complaints they may get and they are going over them with VEI, the company providing tech support.
“I feel confident we are on the right track,” said Lawrence.
Lonnie Epley, a firefighter for both the Lewisburg City Fire Department, as well as the rural department, is also happy with the outcome.
“It seems like they are doing pretty decent,” said Epley. “We still have a few spot problems, but not near as many as we did have.”
Epley said so far the firefighters in Lewisburg have not had problems communicating inside structures, but admits there hasn’t been a lot of structure fires this year.
“We have not had any issues on our medical runs as far as I know. There have been a few dead spots down near the Butler County line and the Lake Malone area, maybe eventually they will be able to get a repeater in those areas.”
Judge Executive Logan Chick said he’s been hearing good things from those who have the radios out in the field.
“I’ve been hearing in different areas they seem a whole lot happier,” said Chick. “Will we ever have a perfect system? Probably not. It’s like a cell phone, sometimes there are areas where reception is better than others.”