County OKs $1.5 million to upgrade communications

Published 11:13 am Friday, June 1, 2012

The Decatur County Board of Commissioners voted Thursday to spend “about $1.5 million” with Motorola, Inc., to upgrade the county’s emergency-response radio and broadband communication systems.

The upgrade is a mandatory requirement by the federal government. By Jan. 1, 2013, all public safety radio systems in the U.S. must broadcast on a “narrow-band” wavelength (approximately 12.5 kHz). Decatur County’s communications network currently operates on a wide-band (25 kHz) broadcast and must be upgraded to meet the federal mandate.

The county held a workshop in January to discuss the upgrade, and has heard several updates at other public meetings. However, on Thursday, Interim County Administrator Gary Breedlove told the county it needed to approve a contract with Motorola in order to meet the Jan. 1, 2013, deadline. The expenditure will be included in the county’s general fund budget.

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“We need to get our name in the queue so that Motorola can get to work on getting the new equipment ready,” he said.

The county will spend $1.5 million on the upgrades, which will include new mobile radios and portable radios for the E-911, sheriff’s and fire departments, as well as EMS and other agencies. The majority of that money will be used to install new communications equipment at two tower sites — one at the Decatur County Jail and one on Highway 97 in Faceville.

Consultants told the county at the January workshop that the upgrades would allow for improved coverage for the county’s public safety officers. However, on Thursday, Sheriff Wiley Griffin said it would be advantageous if an additional tower site could be placed in Attapulgus, to allow better coverage in the southern portions of Decatur County.

Commissioners estimated that a new tower would likely cost between $400,000 and $500,000, and ultimately decided to fund the two-tower-site proposal for right now. However, the county also admitted that it would consider possibly funding another tower site in Attapulgus in the future, if needed.

“I just want us to keep this in mind in case we need another tower later on,” Commissioner Oliver Sellers said. “It’s important for our public safety officers to have the coverage they need.”

Commissioner Russell Smith made the motion to approve the Motorola contract, and Commissioner Dr. Earl Perry seconded it. The vote was unanimous.