Commisioners approve $1,304,074 upgrade to county radio system

Commisioners approve $1,304,074 upgrade to county radio system

Jason Pennell, communications director of Caldwell County Emergency Services, spoke during Monday’s Caldwell Commissioners meeting, stating that the VHF radio system for the county, which allows instant communication between emergency service members and firefighters, needed an update in the amount of $1,304,074. 

The cost of the upgrades would come out of the ARPA funds, which is the money given to the county for COVID-19 relief. 

“The current radio system we have is 15 years old and it’s getting worse every year,” Pennell said. 

“There’s parts of the county from Collettsville to Grace Chapel, areas that don’t have coverage,” he said. “The only updates the county has ever done for VHF is antennas when they’ve been struck by lightning.” 

Pennell stated that Motorola, who provides the system, did a study in the area and found that the upgrades would enhance coverage to areas like Hurricane Hills Road in Granite Falls where coverage has not previously existed, and the project would take around 12 months to be completed.

“With (our current) system being so old, support ran out November of 2021,” he said. “As you can imagine, equipment that old…finding parts is becoming a challenge…we’ve been fortunate they’ve been able to piece-mill some of the parts to get them working but it’s becoming a challenge.”

Emergency services will sometimes use the VIPER system, he said, a different radio system used by police, EMS and other agencies at the local, state, and federal level to provide both operable and interoperable voice communications for public safety, but it does not have paging abilities, therefore all local agencies need the coverage of the VHF system, he said. 

County Manager Donald Duncan spoke up, saying the system is important should the county ever experience a cyber attack or solar flare that could take out other systems of communication. 

“You want to have a layered system…you want to have different levels of communication to be able to respond in an event like that,” he said. 

The board voted unanimously in favor of the upgrades. 

Image courtesy of Caldwell County EMS

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