Archive for Thursday, January 3, 2008

Commission addresses radio upgrade cost concerns

January 3, 2008

With the necessary infrastructure in the form of radio towers almost all in place, the Leavenworth County Commission and various emergency service providers in the county are working to best find a way to manage the costs and proceed with a planned multimillion-dollar countywide communications upgrade.

The upgrade would completely overhaul the county's 30-year-old analog system and could eventually allow direct communication between the Leavenworth County Sheriff's Department, all municipal police departments, fire departments, paramedics and emergency management representatives in the county.

Additionally, the upgrade would bring Leavenworth County into compliance with a federal mandate requiring all emergency service providers to migrate to digital 12.5-kilohertz technology by 2013.

A preliminary estimate from Motorola put the price tag for the entire project, which would include the computers, transmitters, receivers and servers to be placed on seven towers throughout the county and stored in equipment buildings underneath those towers, at approximately $12.4 million.

Commissioners have proposed that expenditure be paid for out of the county's portion of the voter-approved 1-cent sales tax that runs through 2016. When approved in 2004, it was estimated the tax would bring in about $27.2 million in revenue.

An additional, undetermined amount would be required to supply up to 16 different agencies in the county with digital radios.

Commission Chairman J.C. Tellefson said at a meeting Thursday, Dec. 27, that he had heard estimates for radios and dispatching equipment at around $3.7 million.

Commissioners joined Sheriff's Office, Leavenworth Police Department and emergency management representatives and Tom Lynch, a consultant hired by the county for the project, at the Dec. 27 meeting to discuss, among other things, how equipment for those agencies would be paid for.

Lynch said that, while a full equipment list has not been finalized, some equipment has been ordered from Motorola by the Kansas Department of Transportation, which is under contract as the project manager for the communications upgrade.

Undersheriff Ron Cranor said, at this point in the project, as site preparation for several tower sites continues, "We're putting the county structure in place and then asking others if they want to join; and, if they do, if we'll charge them for hooking on."

"The cost to other entities is minimal," Lynch said, adding that the city of Leavenworth's Police Department was an exception because it would require dispatch consoles for its own system that runs on a separate frequency.

For the Basehor and Tonganoxie police departments and for other agencies involved that rely on the county's frequency, Lynch said, "They're getting interoperability at a tremendous discount."

Cranor said if a digital switchover occurs, the analog radios that are currently used will be rendered useless. He added that different agencies could still, however, make a decision whether to become part of the county's frequency.

Commissioner Clyde Graeber requested that letters of notice be sent to all affected cities and agencies, which include all police departments, township fire departments, the Council on Aging and the county Emergency Management department.

County Counselor David Van Parys said a lot of the decisions would need to be made by the various agencies as to how many radios are needed, but he said, "Those costs will be borne by them."

Commissioner Dean Oroke, however, raised the possibility of assisting township fire departments in their portion of the project, because unlike each city they do not receive a portion of the countywide sales tax.

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