Montgomery County, Ohio, to Upgrade Emergency Radio System
Montgomery County commissioners approved a contract with the Ohio Multi-Agency Radio Communication System (MARCS), an important step to upgrade the county’s public safety communications system.
The county has approved spending about $13.4 million to switch to a digital P25 radio system from the current 800 MHz analog technology. The state will reimburse the county for half of the cost of the new equipment via credits for user fees, which will take more than five years to repay.
The agreement approved Thursday spells out the relationship between the county and MARCS, and how the state will own, operate and maintain the new radio system. The agreement is the product of about four years of discussion and work.
“The system benefits them (the state), as well as benefiting us,” said Amy Wiedeman, assistant Montgomery County administrator. “After the system is installed, they will own and operate the system.”
The county and state will split the costs of the new equipment and infrastructure, and the county will be reimbursed half of the project expenses.
Dayton’s and Montgomery County’s radio systems will be combined, and the new system is expected to be up and running by the end of the summer of 2016. The analog equipment on towers will be removed and replaced with new digital technology.
The radio system has a minimum coverage of 95 percent. The agreement says MARCS will maintain a certain number of towers and channels to guarantee quality coverage, capacity and service.
MARCS uses state-of-the-art wireless technology to enable first-responders and public safety officials across the state to send and receive clear signals, said Marty Berkowitz, spokesman with the Ohio Department of Administrative Services.
The statewide radio upgrades are necessary to meet federal communications standards, which will allow Ohio to be eligible for future federal grants, Berkowitz said.
MARCS improves efficiency, saves taxpayers money and increases interoperability, allowing public safety forces across the state to communicate instantly during emergencies, said Dick Miller, field operations manager for Ohio MARCS.
Miller said safety forces across jurisdictional borders will be able to communicate during crisis, which will save lives.
“Having everyone talking and on the same platform makes absolute sense in today’s society,” he said.
Emergency responders can lose radio communication with their agencies when they cross jurisdictional lines.
But the new technology will allow public safety personnel to maintain contact wherever they may travel, said Montgomery County Sheriff Capt. Greg Stephens, the radio system administrator.
“We’ll be able to travel across the state of Ohio and talk back on our radio just like a cell phone,” he said.
In the event of a national disaster, local, state and federal responders would be able to communicate on the same platform, he said.
Commissioners also approved a resolution authorizing the county to join a regional radio council of governments. Agencies with radios in the system will have a vote on the council. They will make decisions about budgets, fees, operational policies and which first-responders use which channels.