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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

Supervisors still exploring radio system options

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

By CHARLES BOOTHE - Staff Writer

The Franklin County Board of Supervisors is still trying to put together a plan for a new radio communications system for first-responders and get a more concrete estimate of the cost.

County Administrator Rick Huff told the board last week that estimates for a new system have recently ranged from $16 million to well over $20 million.

The upgrades are needed, county officials have said, because of the lack of emergency radio coverage in the county.

But coming up with a plan has been difficult.

One of the problems has been learning which frequency band is available and which will deliver the best performance, Huff said.

In 2003, the county upgraded its system to a VHF band but only licensed one transmitter site. Since then, the state police has licensed a large number of frequencies in the region as have other jurisdictions, Huff said. That has left the county with too few available frequencies to license.

In February, a consultant told the board that it could use 800 MHz channels but would need to develop 11 tower sites, purchase equipment and install necessary electronics. The price tag for that was estimated to be $20 million.

The county has also been exploring being part of a regional system, utilizing existing equipment and towers.

"We've got a good handle on it (what we need to do) now," Huff said, requesting that the board set a work session to hear a consultant explain the frequency licensing process. Terry Hall, chief of emergency communications for York-Poquoson-Williamsburg, will be the speaker. Supervisors scheduled that work session for this week.

All options are being explored for the radio system, and the goal is to choose the option that presents the best possible scenario for first-responders at a reasonable price, Huff said.

"We are narrowing down the details now," he said, adding that until those details are in place, including a design of the new system, "all we can do is project a price range."

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