June 18, 2013


Emergency dispatch project nearing completion

County’s $14 million communications upgrade expected to be finished by month’s end

projectBob Ellis/staff photographer
A new communications tower on East Hill Road in Preble.

Staff Reporter

Come month’s end, the county’s new communication system should be up and running and officials will begin testing it to ensure the $14 million upgrade is operating at peak capacity.
The system should be functional by August, with new radios provided to emergency responders.
County Legislator Kevin Whitney (R-Cortlandville), who chairs the county’s communication advisory board, said Monday the towers are all up, with power provided to them and the final pieces of equipment are being installed on them.
He expects to start testing the radios’ abilities to communicate with one another from different points in the county in July.
The seven tower sites are located in Lapeer, Taylor, Cortlandville, Preble, Cuyler, Cincinnatus and Solon. The county is also using an existing tower in Virgil.
The county had originally intended to be online by the beginning of the year but was granted a waiver from the Federal Communication Commission to extend the time frame for completion because various factors that were out of the county’s control delayed the work, such as weather. Whitney said Hurricane Sandy in October drew crews away from the power companies, delaying the tower construction “immensely.” Easement issues the county had to work out with property owners caused further delays.
In February, the county learned it received a $6 million grant from the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services. This money helped offset the burden to local taxpayers, reducing the outstanding leasing costs to $1.3 million and also covered interoperability features added to each tower.
Whitney said this interoperability is of utmost importance because responders across all agencies will be able to communicate with one another and their messages will not be able to be picked up by outside frequencies.
Whitney said the delay worked out well in the long run, because if the county had been online in the beginning of the year and then received the grant funds, it would have had to pay about $750,000 extra to replace radios to be compatible with the universal encryption.
Whitney said testing on the system will begin in July with the help of Federal Engineering and Motorola.
Testing will ensure there is communication among more than 2,000 points in the county, and it will entail officials driving out to these points and communicating via portable radios.
“We have got to ensure the system meets the parameters that were specified,” Whitney said. This means that 95 percent of the time, radios have to be able to communicate with each other from various locations in the county. They must meet public safety standards for their audio quality, Whitney said.
“Our goal is in August to start rolling it out ... start issuing portables to agencies and begin the transition from the current system,” he said.
Information Technology Deputy Director Jack Hess said once the testing is completed to everyone’s satisfaction, things will start moving quickly, with radios being supplied across all agencies.


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