Thursday, September 21, 2000

$2.1M for new radios pleases officials

By Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        BATAVIA — Police and fire departments throughout Clermont County were buoyed Wednesday by the news that commissioners allocated $2.1 million to fund police radios for the county's new communication system.

        The multimillion-dollar system replaced the antiquated one the county had been using for years.

        “This new system with all its capabilities is overwhelming,” said Mark Baird, New Richmond chief of emergency medical services. “It's neat. I am pleasantly surprised by the good results I've seen during the testing.”

        One of the upsides to the new 800 MHz system is that it eliminates “dead spots” — typically valleys in outlying areas — where police cruisers and emergency vehicles would lose contact with the dispatch center.

        The system is set to go “live” Nov. 14.

        One of the downsides is that the system required new radios, for which the local departments were responsible.

        Many, such as New Richmond and Owensville, said they simply couldn't afford it, and that they'd have to forego new equipment or staffing improvements to make up the difference.

        That became unnecessary Wednesday.

        At the high-end, mobile-data-terminals (about $10,000 each) directly link police cruisers to the communications center through laptop computers. On the low-end, portable radios cost between $1,500 and $3,000 each.

        Owensville Police Chief Paul Sturgill had said the cost would require his department to delay purchasing a new cruiser, and could have forced cuts in pay raises.

        The county will incorporate the old and new systems for about a year, to give departments time to upgrade their equipment, said Beth Nevel, director of the county's public safety services.

        The new system also will provide quicker information exchanges between officers and the dispatch center, particularly on warrants and vehicle information.


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