Tuesday, October 24, 2000

County to pay for radios

Emergency system will be uniform

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It appears Hamilton County will spend about $6 million to buy emergency communication radios for the 40 police, fire and EMS agencies on the county's system.

        The county is building a $30 million, digital communication system that works on the 800-megahertz frequency.

        The new system will allow the different agencies to communicate with one another in emergencies and eliminate “dead spots,” or areas in the county where radio communications can not penetrate. The new system also will solve the bigger problem of overloaded channels.

        It appeared last year that individual communities would have to buy the radios themselves, at a cost of between $2,700 and $5,000 apiece.

        But the county now is in a position to buy them for the different communities be cause bids to build the system's infrastructure came in about $7 million under the estimate.

        Hamilton County Commissioner Bob Bedinghaus said he is in favor of the expenditure because it will give communities on the county system an incentive to stay there. It also will give communities on the Valley User Group network — Wyoming, Silverton, St. Bernard, Golf Manor, Amberley Village and Reading — an incentive to join the county system.

        “That's the key to the whole thing,” Mr. Bedinghaus said. “We'll use the savings as a carrot.”

        Last year, the commissioners wanted to pay for the new communication system with a special levy, which was overwhelmingly defeated by voters. It was the third such rejection of the idea of using a special tax to pay for the system.

        That's when the county said it would build the system, but that each community would have to buy the radios.

        That put smaller towns and villages in a tough spot.

        Harrison Fire Chief Alan Kinnett said his community would have had trouble raising the $135,000 for the radios.

        “Obviously, this is great news for us,” Chief Kinnett said. “This has been a long time in coming.”

        Greg Wenz, operations director at the county's communications center, said 1,700 to 2,000 radios will be purchased. Once a vendor is picked, it will take a little more than two years before the system is on line.

        Mr. Wenz said he hopes to have a contract with a vendor sometime after January.


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