County radio project deemed too costly

December 09, 1992|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Staff Writer Staff Writer Kerry O'Rourke contributed to this story.

The county cannot afford to spend $6.4 million upgrading its emergency radio system, Carroll Planning Commission members decided during a work session yesterday.

The commission placed the $860,535 for the system -- requested for fiscal year 1994 -- on a list of projects to be added to the capital budget if money becomes available.

"We have a serious budget crunch that goes far beyond this project," Planning Director Edmund R. Cueman said before the work session. "If money becomes available, the commissioners can choose which projects they want to pursue."

The Planning Commission will make its recommendations to the county commissioners next Tuesday. The commissioners make the final decision about how money in the capital budget will be spent.

The county began advertising for an engineering firm to oversee the upgrade of the current system just last week.

The Radio Replacement Committee, charged with selecting the firm and supervising the installation of the new system, met Thursday at the Emergency Operations Center and discussed forging ahead with its plans despite rumors that the money may not be available.

"We are well within our proposed time line, but our next big step is to deal with what the Planning Commission will recommend to the county commissioners," said Jay R. Nave, chairman of the committee.

Mr. Nave said pushing the radio project back until more money could be found could have serious effects.

The Federal Communication Commission gives agencies five years to make their purchased frequencies fully operational, so if the project takes more than five years after the frequencies are acquired, the county risks losing them, Mr. Nave said.

"It would be very embarrassing to have sunk two or three million dollars into this project only to have them come in and pull frequencies," he said.

The Radio Replacement Committee hopes to hear by Marcwhether the frequencies they've applied for have been approved. Under favorable circumstances, the whole upgrade project will take 18 to 36 months, Mr. Nave said.

Committee Member Howard "Buddy" Redman, chief of emergency services in Carroll, said that lack of funding for the project could prevent the county from acquiring frequencies.

"We have no indication for the licensing process that we have a funding source, which the FCC requires before it approves an application," Mr. Redman said.

Mr. Redman said the funding statement is given with the application and stipulates where the money is coming from and when.

In October, the committee requested the money for th completion of the project through the Capital Improvements Program between 1994 and 1999.

The emergency radio system provides communications for the county's Emergency Operations Center, firefighters and ambulance crews.

Since October, numerous statewide budget cuts have delayed local projects.

The county began talking about replacing its outdated radio system in 1989, after a consultant recommended upgrading to an 800-megaHertz system.

The Radio Replacement Committee was appointed by the county commissioners in August to oversee the project. It expects to have a list of engineering firms as possible bidders on installing the system by its next meeting on Jan. 14, Mr. Nave said.

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