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Communications upgrade sought

A committee that includes emergency service professionals will ask the Washington County Commissioners to replace an aging publi

A committee that includes emergency service professionals will ask the Washington County Commissioners to replace an aging publi

October 21, 2002|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Members of a committee made up of police, fire, rescue and county officials said Friday they will ask the Washington County Commissioners to replace an outdated public safety communications system, a project that would come with a multi-million dollar price tag.

Pete Loewenheim, the county's communications maintenance manager, said the committee will request that the project be placed on the county's upcoming five-year Capital Improvement Plan.

"What ends up on the budget is totally up to the commissioners," Loewenheim said.

Capt. Douglas Mullendore of the Washington County Sheriff's Department said the county's communications system is nearly 30 years old and causes safety problems for law enforcement officers.

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"It's just old technology. There's no way to update it," Mullendore said.

He said deputies use radios that send messages to repeaters in cruisers and then to the communications tower. The repeaters boost weak signals and retransmits them, extending their range.

"Because of the number of repeaters, they interfere with each other," Mullendore said.

The proposed system would include a new communications tower, radios and other equipment, he said.

Mullendore said the Sheriff's Department can't find parts to fix broken radios because the radios are old.

County Administrator Rodney Shoop did not return phone calls on Thursday and Friday. None of the County Commissioners could be reached for comment Friday.

Loewenheim and Mullendore said they did not know the exact price of the new system, but that it would be substantial.

At a commissioners meeting Tuesday, Shoop said other counties have paid more than $10 million for what he called an important project.

"Yeah, well, put that on the burner," Commissioner Bert Iseminger said at the meeting. "There's got to be some federal and state dollars available for that. There needs to be justification that we're getting what we ought to get out of this."

Shoop said the project would alter the Capital Improvement Plan significantly.

Mullendore said Friday he thinks the communications system should be a priority.

"It's something that needs to occur as quickly as possible, because it is a safety issue at this point," Mullendore said.

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