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Berkeley Co. scrambling to fix radio coverage problem

September 08, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Berkeley County leaders are scrambling to address an apparent oversight in security at the new judicial center after learning about radio coverage problems on the first two floors.

Charged with security of county buildings, Sheriff W. Randy Smith said Thursday he and Chief Deputy Kenneth Lemaster Jr. discovered they couldn't talk with one another while touring the holding cells on the ground floor on Aug. 16.

"We got separated and called each other and couldn't get out on the radios," Smith said.

The radio coverage problem will not delay the Oct. 6 grand opening celebration, and County Commission President Howard L. Strauss said Thursday that circuit court officials could delay their move by a week in October, or still move their offices as planned, but not hold proceedings there.

A representative with Motorola Inc. told Strauss and commissioners Steven C. Teufel and Ronald K. Collins Thursday night that a repeater system to correct the problem possibly could be installed within three to five weeks after he received the go-ahead. County leaders could approve the purchase within two weeks, Strauss said.

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"If the hardware is not sitting on the shelf, it could be 12 weeks" after receiving approval from the county, Joe LaGanga said after commissioners adjourned their night session.

Clearly disappointed by the development, Strauss said stakeholders in the project had numerous opportunities to tour the building to ensure the judicial center would be outfitted appropriately.

"We still may be able to get it done in time," Strauss said.

Smith dismissed any suggestion that he was to blame for the oversight, asserting there was no way to know if the emergency communications radio system the county recently purchased would work until walls and steel were put in place.

"I don't see where they can point the finger at any one individual," Smith said.

The radio coverage problem was mentioned by Berkeley County 911 Advisory Board member Phil Martin, who along with Central Dispatch/911 Director Mary Kackley addressed the commission about an apparent lack of understanding among law enforcement officers about using the county's new radio system, which was launched in May.

On Aug. 24, Smith told county commissioners that he had not been able to communicate with West Virginia State Police since May.

Kackley clarified Thursday that deputies who need to talk to their state counterparts at the Martinsburg detachment need only to request a radio patch be initiated through the 911 communications center.

An upgrade of the state police detachment's equipment to join the system is about 75 percent complete, Kackley said.

Medics and firefighters, both paid and volunteer in the county, "have taken to this system like a duck takes to water," Kackley said.

The same could not be said for law enforcement, Kackley said.

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