Polk County approves $606,000 upgrade for emergency communications

Published 5:08 pm Thursday, November 6, 2008

Polk County&squo;s fire, rescue and law enforcement officials could have better radio reception this year as county commissioners approved new towers and a $606,000 multi-phase upgrade to its communication system.

Local fire and rescue departments were invited to speak on Monday, and each member emphasized the critical need for a new system, saying there are many dead spots throughout the county.

Several fire and rescue speakers described times when&bsp; they couldn&squo;t reach anyone on radios because of dead zones. In several areas of Polk County, they said, neither radio nor cell phone communication is possible.

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The Mill Spring Fire Department Assistant Chief Bobby Wise spoke of many specific areas in Mill Spring and Sunny View where there is no reception. He also said not too long ago he was in a dead spot and had the radio in one hand and a lady dying in the other hand.

&dquo;Rescue couldn&squo;t understand what I was saying,&dquo; said Wise.

&dquo;In our business the key component is communication,&dquo; said Columbus Fire Chief Geoff Tennant. &dquo;We can do nothing if we can&squo;t communicate.&dquo;

Commissioners voted unanimously to upgrade the system and thanked county information technology director Marche Pitman for bringing an economically feasible plan for commissioners to consider.

Polk County will spend $175,000 this year on its communications system. Of that total, $80,000 is already budgeted to build a two-tower, two channel, simulcast radio system. The first tower sites will be located at the Tryon Peak tower site and tentatively at the Polk County Landfill.

The total four-year project is expected to cost $606,000. The county plans to spend $140,000 in both the second and third year for additional towers.

In the final year, the plan is to spend an estimated $151,000 to change out the console radios in the communications center. That year&39;s funding will also be used to set up a remote communications center should a disaster occur that causes the county to abandon its current center.

Commissioners approved the first two years of funding on Monday.

The county&39;s need for a new radio communications system has been brought to commissioners&39; attention for many years, but no movement has been made on the issue until now.