Completion of the county's new emergency radio system will be delayed because of a state error in selecting a construction site in Sykesville for a communications tower, officials say.
The system was expected to be operating by mid-November, said Howard S. "Buddy" Redman Jr., administrator of the county's Office of Public Safety. But the county learned earlier this month that the tower site on the grounds of Springfield Hospital Center was earmarked for use by Maryland State Police for part of its new training facility.
The tower will be built on another site at the hospital, but the change in location delays its completion.
Jay Nave, administrative assistant for the county's Bureau of Roads Operations, said Thursday that county government vehicles may begin using the new radio system by mid-November, operating from six towers strategically placed throughout the county. Fire and emergency services, however, cannot be brought on line without the Sykesville tower.
"For one thing, we need [the Sykesville tower] to guarantee 'in-building' communication," Nave said. "We must be 100 percent certain that a firefighter entering a burning building can communicate with others outside in case he needs help."
Nave speculated that the delay could be beneficial, because anticipated "bugs" in the new computerized radio system will be corrected before fire and emergency personnel begin using it, "hopefully by Jan. 1."
A problem with one of the county's towers was identified and is expected to be fixed this week, Nave said. A miscalculation in elevation led to a microwave dish being incorrectly positioned, he said.
Once it is fully operational, the $8.2 million, seven-tower, 800-megahertz system will "guarantee improved communication for public safety in the 21st century," Redman said.
Dispatchers for police, fire and medical services won't lose contact with personnel in the field because of numerous "dead" spots that have interrupted communications on the current low-band system throughout the county, he said.
Radio waves travel horizontally in a straight line, and the county's hilly terrain has interfered with radio reception by mobile units, Redman said.
County officials have been planning to replace the old equipment since 1988, Redman said.
The new system uses a "trunk" format that ends the need for separate channels on different frequencies because the 800-megahertz system constantly scans eight electronic paths to find the quickest way to send a communication, Redman said.
"Fire and police can be assigned to the same talk group, so they may interact," he said.
Other government agencies will be assigned to a different talk group, communicating directly without cluttering the airwaves during an emergency.
Pub Date: 10/21/96