The Harrison County Board of Supervisors revisited the Motorola proposal for an updated radio communication system at their Aug. 27 regular meeting.

As more essential public services make the switch to a 700mHz operating system, some essential services are left without an effective and efficient means of communication.

Communication is particularly important for those on patrol or responding to an emergency. According to Harrison County Emergency Management Director Larry Oliver, the Harrison County Sheriff's Office is already operating on the updated system as are the Missouri Valley Police Department, Woodbine Police Department, and Dunlap Police Department.

Fire and Rescue squads are, in many cases, not.

After first hearing the Motorola proposal, totaling approximately $4.5 million, at the July 30 regular meeting, the board of supervisors asked that the volunteer departments determine what they absolutely needed.

Subsequently, according to Oliver, fire chiefs and rescue captains met with him on Aug. 18, and the list was reduced by more than 50 radios, mostly handheld, at an approximate cost savings of $300,000 overall.

“I do want to publicly thank the fire departments for taking a look at this,” Oliver said. “Reducing the count does have some residual effects, such as programming costs. Less radios means less programming.”

Oliver added that a decreased count may also impact the discount offered, in that a fewer number of radios means a reduced discount.

Additionally, Oliver said, if each radio costs $5,000-$6,000, those departments may further reduce the cost significantly if they are awarded grant funds.

Many of the departments are considering grants and additional funding opportunities, further reducing the need for county funding.

Supervisor Tony Smith added that Woodbine business NuStyle Development is willing to offer financial support to the Woodbine department.

“There is some other discussion of some of the departments that support each other quite a bit anyway, working together to find what foundations and grants are available,” Oliver added.

“These radios are not for the fire departments; we will be using them to help the people of the whole county,” Magnolia Fire Chief Cory Mether said. “I am an old geezer. When I first got on the fire department, we had no radios, so I appreciate the radios more than most. Of all our equipment, the radios are one of the bigger assets. That pumper is no good over here if there is a big problem over the hill that I don’t know about.”

Oliver added that the proposal does include infrastructure, such as updated towers, propane generators, and concrete pads.

“The need is area wide. What is currently in place is outdated and operating on older technology. Coverage is not good throughout the county. The goal is to help reduce those gaps,” he added. “This would greatly enhance communications throughout the county. I understand the numbers; it’s a tough build.”

“If we funded this, is there a completion date in this contract?” Smith asked.

Regional Motorola Representative Brian Flynn answered that the proposal would have to be updated to reflect current needs, then the proposal would include an accurate cost and timeline.

Harrison County Auditor Susan Bonham said, “The board understands that this is a worthy project, but still has concerns over the cost.”

No action was taken on the matter.

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