Archive for Thursday, July 19, 2007

Emergency radio upgrade advances

July 19, 2007

Leavenworth County Commissioners have taken the next step in upgrading a communications system for local emergency service providers that undersheriff Ron Cranor said was "on the verge of extinction."

Commissioners on Monday, July 16, unanimously approved a motion to draft and execute a letter of intent to negotiate with Motorola to replace at least one communications tower and possibly overhaul the entire system from analog to digital equipment.

"Every day is critical to us," Sheriff David Zoellner said, adding that the top priority is to replace the Boling Grange tower at Tonganoxie Road and 171st Street, which was destroyed when it was struck by a vehicle in Oct. 2006.

A temporary tower has been constructed, but a more permanent solution is badly needed, Zoellner said.

The sheriff explained that currently there are holes in the system in some areas of the county where his department's radios cannot communicate with dispatchers or other officers.

Motorola representatives submitted a stand-alone plan to construct a 450-foot tower, which would be the central backbone of any future communications system, near the current Boling Grange site at a cost of $730,000.

County Counselor David Van Parys recommended proceeding with the construction of that tower while Motorola representatives work to come up with a firm project proposal for the entire system.

Van Parys said there are three other towers that need work to be fully included in the county's eight tower system the Leavenworth dispatch tower at the county Justice Center, the Kickapoo tower located near Pleasant Ridge High School and a new Tonganoxie tower to be built on site at the county rock quarry.

Construction of the Tonganoxie tower will be paid for by the Mid-America Regional Council as part of their RAMBIS project, an undertaking that will eventually allow interoperability between all emergency service providers, Zoellner said.

Leavenworth County would then be responsible for maintaining the equipment. Zoellner said work on that tower should begin in 30 days.

Once the towers are in place, they will give signal coverage to 100 percent of the county 95 percent of the time, Motorola representatives said.

Van Parys said he foresees all four towers being completed by the first quarter of 2008.

An additional aspect of updating the entire communications system is to change the county's 30-year-old analog equipment to a digital format.

By federal mandate, all emergency service providers must migrate to digital 12.5-kilohertz technology by 2013.

For the county, that would mean replacing all of the transmitters and receivers on the communications towers and purchasing new radios.

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