Just shy of four years since its purchase, the county’s new digital radio system is expected to be up and running the week of July 16, says Logan County Sheriff Wallace Whittaker.
Whittaker has been supervising the installation that has hit several snags since the county agreed to purchase the $531,000 system in March of 2009. The system will upgrade the radios from analog to digital that are carried by emergency personnel in the county including, law enforcement, fire departments, ambulance service, coroner, jail, and emergency management.
Total cost for the project has ended with an estimate of $630,900, said Whittaker. This cost includes the $531,000 system itself, $61,000 for the tower that has recently been erected on top of Reservoir Hill in Russellville, $24,900 for the building that is required to hold all of the new equipment and $14,000 for a digital paging system for the fire departments. The county did received a $15,000 discount from Kenwood due to the length of time it took to get the system up.
“This has been a long time coming,” said Whittaker. “I can’t thank enough the Fiscal Court for all of their support in purchasing this system and also their support during the process of getting it operational,” added Whittaker.
Some of the delays the system installation experienced included, waiting for some emergency service agencies to obtain funding to purchase the new radios that are compatible with the new system. Another delay involved the vendors and the recent delay was where to put the tower.
The new system’s purchase came after an Auburn firefighter came to fiscal court telling them he could not get through to dispatch (911) after an arsonist pointed a gun in his face that luckily misfired. When he ran from the suspect, he attempted to radio in to dispatch but got no signal. Other emergency agencies have expressed problems as well with the very old system expressing their concern for their life and the lives of others because of a breakdown in communication.
Another reason the county purchased the system was due to a federal law that requires all analog systems, which is what the county currently has, to be switched over to digital. Because of the many delays in installing the new system the county missed the August 2011 deadline for the federal switch over; however, they were given an extension until October of this year to have it completed.
Whittaker says each emergency agency needs to get a list of its channels and bring them to the sheriff department. He said there will be a gentleman from Kenwood at his office on July 17 to program the new radios.
“It should take two to three days to get all the radios programed and ready to go and then we can flip the switch,” said Whittaker.
“We will be able to reach areas we could not reach with this new system,” said Whittaker. “This will help with public safety as well as the safety of all emergency workers out there. This should have been done along time ago and I am happy that is will soon be operational,” Whittaker added.
There will still be a few kinks to work out, said the sheriff, but he feels confident the new system will be strong.
“This new system has come about by everyone working together. The fiscal court, the cities, the emergency agencies and even the road and street departments for their clearing out the debris on top of Reservoir Hill,” said Whittaker, who admitted if it weren’t for the men and women who risk their lives every day that brought this to the attention of the county it wouldn’t have gotten done.