More than $6 million needed to replace or upgrade emergency radio system

April 29, 1993|By Bill Talbott | Bill Talbott,Staff Writer

It will cost $6,015,750 to replace Carroll's emergency radio system with a new, nine-channel, 800-megahertz system, county emergency services administrator Howard S. Redman Jr. told Commissioner Elmer Lippy and members of the Carroll County Planning Committee yesterday.

He said upgrading the present system for fire and emergency medical services and securing a four-channel, 800 MHz system that would serve only police would cost more -- $6,105,784.

Mr. Redman said the current system, part of which was installed in the 1950s, is inadequate, suffers from considerable interference, and does not cover all areas of the county.

Mr. Redman, who is director of the emergency operations center, said the county needs to provide adequate communications for all fire and police agencies in the county through upgrading or replacement of equipment.

Mr. Redman, in a four-hour presentation at the center, said the county applied to the Federal Communications Commission for 10 new channels in the 800 MHz frequencies band and is about 90 percent sure that nine of those frequencies will be granted.

Application for the new frequencies had to be done now because there is so much competition for the high-band frequencies.

The county would be given about five years to put the new frequencies into operation, he said.

If the county decides not to acquire the new radio system and elects to upgrade the current communications equipment, there is no monetary penalty, but the frequencies would not be available in the future, the commissioner was told.

The new system would use microwave transmission to replace the present leased telephone lines that cost hundreds of dollars per month. For example, Mr. Redman said, in Mount Airy the telephone lines cost more than $600 per month.

Mr. Redman said that sometimes fire and medical personnel are not able to talk with the emergency communications center because of "skip" or interference from other fire services as far away as Virginia.

If a new 800 MHz system is installed, the county could share the microwave towers with MIEMSS, the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems, which would pay for the maintenance and upkeep of the towers, reducing the county's costs.

Under the latest technology of "trunking," he said, police, fire and other government agencies could use the same frequencies, with computers selecting the next open channel for more efficient, quicker communications.

J. Michael Evans, director of general services, mentioned several methods of paying for the upgrading or replacement of the communications system.

He said paying cash has the most advantages, but could mean cutting other services or having to raise more revenue. He said the sale of bonds is another possibility, but would cost the county about $140,000 annually in interest for a long period.

The third method might be a lease/purchase agreement, which would cost the county about $144,000 per year per $1,000,000 for about 10 years.

Under a vendor financing program, the county would pay a yearly cost for a specified number of years, but would never own the equipment.

Mr. Lippy said the information would be presented to the other county commissioners.

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