City votes to move in different direction than county when buying radios

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By Shannon Brock

The Taylorsville City Commission voted last Tuesday night to continue its course and purchase the needed equipment for the city police department to operate on P-25 radio technology.
Several years ago, the county’s 911 Committee, which is comprised of emergency agency department heads, agreed to move in the P-25 direction — a move that is recommended by the Department of Homeland Security with the idea that the more agencies that use P-25 technology, the more agencies that will be able to communicate with each other in the event of a disaster or emergency.
However, P-25 is not the technology most recently purchased by the county for the Spencer County Sheriff’s Department and Spencer County EMS. Those agencies will be operating on ICOM radios with NextEdge digital technology.
The Taylorsville Police Department will purchase analog radios that are P-25 digital capable.
P-25 digital technology cannot directly interact with NextEdge digital technology.
Overall, NextEdge technology is less expensive, but P-25 technology is the standard recommended by the federal government.
Taylorsville Police Chief Toby Lewis presented the commission with two options last Tuesday night.
The first option was to purchase the same technology the county recently purchased:
•5 digital mobile radios at $637.50 each for a total of $3,187.50 (the department already has two of these radios)
•6 digital handheld radios at $513 each for a total of $3,078 (the department already has one of these radios)
•7 VHF low profile antennas at $10.28 each for a total of $71.96
•7 rapid rate chargers at $52.50 each for a total of $367.50
•7 military spec. noice control speaker microphones at $72.38 each for a total of $506.66
•7 leather swivel belt loop with portable D-ring attachment at $19.73 each for a total of $138.11
The total cost for all of the needed NextEdge technology equipment would be $7,349.73.
The second option, which the commission ultimately chose, was to purchase the P-25 technology:
•1 Quantar P-25 duplexer (used) for $4,000
•3 P-25 handheld radios at $425 each for a total of $1,275
•4 P-25 mobile radios at $975 each for a total of $3,900
The total cost of the needed P-25 technology equipment would be $9,175.
Lewis told the commission that the department already has three in-car mobile radios and five handheld radios and would be using the current antennas at Settler’s Trace.
The monetary difference in the needed equipment for the two systems is $1,825.27.
In the early stages of the county’s plans to purchase the ICOM radios, Judge-Executive Bill Karrer offered for the county to purchase the needed NextEdge technology radios for the county.
The city police department and the sheriff’s department share the same radio frequency, so the transition seemingly would have been smoother if both agencies were using the same technology.
At an Oct. 22 meeting of the City Commission, Karrer presented his offer to the commission. At that meeting, the city voted to accept the offer, let the county use its water towers for the new radio antennas and to develop a memorandum of understanding with county to put the details in writing.
On Oct. 30, Karrer and Mayor Don Pay signed an MOU.
However, at a special Nov. 1 meeting, the commission voted to nullify the MOU because Pay had signed it before bringing it back for approval.
“We asked that day that they meet with us,” Commissioner Kathy Spears said last Tuesday night. “Don signed the MOU, but we hadn’t approved it. We never told them they couldn’t use the towers.”
The motion made Nov. 1 regarding emergency radio equipment was “that the MOU signed by the mayor on 10-30-12 is null and void and that the MOU of March 2011 is still in effect until such time that we come up with a new workable agreement.”
However, instead of meeting to come up with a workable agreement, at the Nov. 5 Fiscal Court meeting, Karrer made it known that the county would put in its own tower on its own property and withdrew the offer to provide funding for city radio equipment.
Chief Lewis has submitted an application so that the city police department can have its own radio frequency, but those applications take several months to process.
On the separate radio systems, the city police department and the sheriff’s department will only be able to communicate via radio under certain circumstances.
Both radio systems can operate on analog frequencies and can send and receive transmissions.
If the sheriff’s department operates its radios in “mixed mode,” deputies can send digital communications, and as long as an analog response is keyed up within a set time frame (for example, three or five seconds) a responding analog radio could be heard.
If the sheriff’s department is operating in a digital mode, a city police officer would need to radio dispatch in Frankfort to ask the deputy to switch to analog for the two to be able to communicate.
The P-25 system will enable the city police department to communicate with other agencies, such as the Taylorsville-Spencer County Fire Department, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources and the Kentucky State Police.