Wayne County, Ohio, Officials to Meet on Upgrades to Public Radio System
WOOSTER — Wayne County’s public safety radio system needs to be upgraded and updated, and with a price tag of $4.5-$5.7 million, the commissioners have scheduled a meeting in July for elected and public safety officials in order to gain input about what to do.
Mission Critical Partners conducted a study of the public safety radio system, and the overwhelming conclusion was the paging system used by firefighters is the biggest priority.
The report lists six priorities:
- Immediately improve the paging system;
- Offer countywide portable coverage on every primary channel;
- Develop radio sites that meet public safety standards for reliability and eliminate single points of failure;
- Improve capacity and allow for growth;
- Upgrade connectivity; and
- Establish additional security and control measures to prevent unwanted system access.
Joe Villegas, director of the Wayne County Emergency Management Agency, said the study provided a full assessment of the current condition of the radio system and the issues first responders face.
In one of the focus groups, the consultants learned New Pittsburg Community Fire Department has experienced inconsistencies with its radio system: One day the pagers work fine, and the next day maybe only half will work properly.
“Paging issues and complaints have increased over the years, demonstrating the degradation of the infrastructure,” the report stated.
Because of the terrain of the county, there have been problematic areas where police, fire and EMS personnel have had difficulty communicating with portable radios. While there have been improvements made to the system and some repeaters installed to help with communications, dead spots still exist in the county.
The report presents four options to improve the system:
- Convert fire paging and voice systems to transmit steering;
- Enhance the current system to be a conventional simulcast radio system;
- Transition to Ohio’s state-of-the-art system, Multi-Agency Radio Communications System; or
- Migrate to a similar system used by Parma and Medina.
The last two options involve using the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials’ Project 25 trunking system, which costs more.
“We are looking at moving to a P25 compliant system for county communications,” commissioners Scott Wiggam, Jim Carmichael and Ann Obrecht wrote in a letter to public service agencies. “While we realize this will be a major investment for everyone, it is important in being able to provide reliable communications going forward.
“The communication structure in Wayne County depends on all agencies and political subdivisions working together and sharing equipment and technology …”
The P25 system will allow “enhanced capacity, features and functionality” and won’t limit the county’s expansion capabilities, the report stated.
Moving to the MARCS system will require nearly $2.7 million in infrastructure costs and subscribers will pay another $2.2 million for equipment. Annual maintenance costs are about $312,000.
The Parma/Medina radio system will have more than $3.5 million in infrastructure, cost subscribers $2.2 million in equipment and have an annual maintenance fee of $125,000.
To enhance and convert the county’s system to a simulcast paging and radio system will take $2.9 million in infrastructure costs and $1.6 million for equipment. Annual maintenance is expected to be $89,000.
To improve the system through transmitter steering is $50,000. The county spends about $37,000 annually maintaining the current system. This is viewed as a short-term fix that can help improve communications immediately.
The meeting, scheduled for 2 p.m. July 14 in the Wayne County Administration Building, will be an opportunity for safety service providers to discuss the report and the plans for moving forward.