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DCBOE to join upgraded radio system while cutting costs

With the deadline to sign a contract with Motorola for the upgraded radio system rapidly approaching, the Decatur County Board of Education has decided to remain a member of the system.

An official vote is expected at the board’s August meeting.

“It’s really probably in the best interest of the county if we can stay a part of it,” superintendent Tim Cochran said.

The board was initially introduced to the proposed radio upgrades at its meeting on Dec. 1, 2015. At that time, the proposal was for the board of education to purchase 158 radios at an initial cost of $298,857 and then pay a yearly subscriber fee projected at $36,267.17 after the first year.

In May, this number was adjusted to 242 radios for an initial cost around $388,000.

Under that proposal, every Decatur County School system radio would have had direct access to 911.

No official action was ever taken by the board to approve its role in the proposed system.

Before bringing a proposal to the board, Cochran, who officially started as superintendent on July 1, opened a dialogue with the board of education and Decatur and Grady County 911 to make sure that the board of education was only purchasing the amount of radios needed.

“In trying to get more information about it, the thing really stems on being connected to 911,” Cochran said at the board meeting on July 14. “My questions to you guys is ,was it a board decision to stay connected to 911 or was it the board’s wishes for every radio to be tied to 911?”

He initially proposed looking into alternative options, including having their own system and only having a limited number of radios with dual band capabilities to talk on both the school and 911 systems.

“The only people needing 911 are our law enforcement and a few directors,” Cochran said at the July 14 meeting. “The way its set up now, every bus and every janitor and practically every kit’s going to have a radio that they can push a button and have an open mic talking to 911, and we don’t have to do that.”

An issue arose though because if the school board pulled the majority of its allotment it would cause the entire system to have to be redesigned. Currently, the system is designed to include seven channels, which requires a minimum of 1,050 radios. If the school board dropped below 130 radios, it would force Motorola to redesign the system with only six channels, according to 911 director Tonya Griffin.

“The school system was kind of committed to this program,” Cochran said. “If we were to back out this late in the ballgame it would have some potentially detrimental affects to the county and all the other agencies involved.”

Instead of looking into completely pulling out, Cochran and 911 were able to reach a compromise to cut the board of education’s costs, while keeping the proposed system intact.

“We’re going to have an increased number of radios that are tied to the system,” Cochran said “We’re not going to probably have the number of radios at the 242. We’re going to try and back down a little bit without affecting them. Just back down our costs, because it’s just a little overkill for us.”

He said he hopes to have an exact number of radios in the next week, but that it will likely fall in the 130-150 radio range, which will save money in initial costs and yearly subscriber fees.

“I do feel comfortable we can probably cut $100,000 out of that,” Cochran said. “Probably a little more than that. I would say in the neighborhood of $125,000, give or take. That’s just off the costs of radios.”

The lone impact that the reduction in number should have on the rest of the agencies in the system will be an increase in the per radio subscriber fee that has to be paid on an annual basis.

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