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New Washington Co. emergency radio system might be delayed nearly a year

August 07, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- A digital radio system that will allow all public safety workers in Washington County to communicate with each other might not be finished until the fall of 2009, according to county officials.

Delays in site work for the system's towers, a conflict with the National Park Service over one of the proposed sites and problems with the company contracted to build the system could put the project almost a full year behind its original schedule, Communications Maintenance Manager Pete Loewenheim said during a meeting held Tuesday to update the Washington County Commissioners on the project.

In July, it was noted that the network was tentatively scheduled to be operating by the middle of 2009.

Loewenheim said he hopes the county will be able to use the system when it has enough towers available to provide "adequate coverage," even if the work isn't complete.

"We want to get started with enough coverage so it is equal to what we have today, then get to 95-95," said Loewenheim, referring to the county's goal for the new system to provide 95 percent coverage, 95 percent of the time.

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The multi-million dollar system will allow police, firefighters and emergency service workers to communicate with each other during emergencies.

Each department now uses different frequencies and cannot switch those frequencies to talk to each other.

The system will use 10 radio towers across the county.

Clearing sites for those towers has presented significant delays for county workers, Loewenheim said Tuesday.

"In case you weren't aware, there is a lot of rock in Washington County," Loewenheim said.

None of the 10 tower sites has been finished. Five are close to being completed, while work at some sites has not yet started.

A proposed site at Keep Tryst Road has been "put on hold," Loewenheim said, as the county works with the National Park Service, which argues that a tower on the site will obstruct views from parks in the area.

The county has scheduled a meeting with the park service for Aug. 20 to discuss the site and possible alternatives, and will hold a public hearing afterward.

The county is considering an alternate site, and park service officials have been cleared to review technical information from Motorola, which is building the system.

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