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New emergency radio system activated in Jefferson County

October 29, 2008|By DAVE MCMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A new Jefferson County, W.Va., emergency radio system that raised concerns among some police officials was activated Tuesday, and other than some minor transmission problems, the process went smoothly, police said.

The new digital radio system replaces an analog system that had been giving police trouble.

Shepherdstown Police Chief Terry Bellomy said his officers had trouble communicating on portable radios most of the time on the old system and had to communicate with the county's 911 center with cell phones.

"Compared to what we had, it's a step forward," Bellomy said Tuesday.

About three months ago, some local police chiefs became frustrated over the new radio system, saying they were having transmission trouble with the system during testing, and saying that they were getting little help from the county's 911 center.

Jeff Polczynski, who oversees the county's 911 operations, defended the system, saying no radio network can provide perfect reception.

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West Virginia State Police Sgt. Ed Anderson said Tuesday his department had a few problems with portable radios but felt they could be corrected with updated programming.

Harpers Ferry Police Chief Donald Buracker said there are some transmission problems in Harpers Ferry with the new radios, sometimes attributed to heavy tree leaf cover, but said it's something officers will simply have to be aware of.

"I think it's something we can work with," Buracker said.

Bellomy agreed officer awareness will be key in working with the system.

Bellomy said there are areas along the Potomac River in Shepherdstown that go "a little crazy on us" on the new radios, and "dead" transmission spots on Shepherd University are an issue since the police department responds on calls at the school.

Polczynski did not return phone calls Tuesday.

The purchase and renovation of a building in Bardane, W.Va., for a new 911 center and the new radio system cost about $6 million, according to Kirk E. Davis, the county's capital projects manager.

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