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Design work to start soon on communications upgrade

September 29, 2004|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Design work is to begin soon for Washington County's $16 million public safety communications system, which would improve communication among police, fire and rescue, and government departments.

The Washington County Commissioners on Tuesday approved a recommendation from a consultant to start on the design plan for the proposed digital UHF simulcast trunked system. The system would use 450 megahertz frequencies already licensed to Washington County.

Director of Public Works Gary Rohrer said the system would allow for multiple conversations countywide on various channels without interference.

The county's current communications system is more than 30 years old and broken equipment is hard to fix because of its age, Rohrer said.

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Public safety officials have said a weak radio system causes interference and sometimes fails entirely while crews are responding to calls.

"We don't want to jeopardize the safety of any of our citizens," County Administrator Rodney Shoop said.

Washington County Sheriff's Department Capt. Douglas Mullendore told the commissioners last year that deputies have had several problems with the current system failing and that has hampered investigations and put officers' safety at risk.

The commissioners must grant final approval for the project, but so far, Rohrer said the project was "on track."

The new system also would provide for the consolidation of the city and county dispatch centers in Washington County, Rohrer said.

Shoop said the county will use at least $496,000 in federal money to help pay for the system, but he expects the grant dollars to increase over the next several years.

The county anticipates receiving another $500,000 in Homeland Security money this year, Shoop said.

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