03/10/04 — Duplin could upgrade ER communictions

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Duplin could upgrade ER communictions

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on March 10, 2004 2:00 PM

KENANSVILLE -- The county manager says Duplin County can upgrade its emergency communications system for $3 million less than was previously thought and may even be able to recoup the cost.

"Thank goodness," said Commissioners Chairman L.S. Guy during a work session Monday afternoon. The difference in cost is "staggering," he said. "We took some tough criticism, because we were not moving on a system costing $6.5 million."

The county has spent the past two years trying to find a way to get a better signal for the pagers and the hand-held radios carried by law enforcement and fire and rescue workers. The dispatcher's signal in Kenansville was so weak that it wasn't setting off the signals to call first-response emergency workers in outlying areas.

Motorola was the only company that responded last February to the county's second request for proposals. Nobody knew it at the time, but the specifications in the request required very expensive solutions.

County Manager Fred Eldridge said the numbers received earlier might not be accurate. The county had talked to vendors about an analog system, which Eldridge says is fast becoming antiquated.

The guide-wire transmitter towers would have cost $800,000 each, because they would have to go up on five-acre lots. He said he found out self-supporting towers can go up on half-acre lots and cost $200,000 each.

Eldridge reported that he has an option on one site for placement of an antenna tower and control of two other sites. He plans to place one tower at the Duplin Commons agricultural center that is under construction, one outside Chinquapin and another one at the north end of the county.

He said the county could possibly see a five-year pay-back on the towers if it leased the space to phone companies.

The system Eldridge is considering would include a short-term fix for the pager systems while the county made long-term plans.

"It's not going to be a quick fix, but we will be making it better," he said. "We'll be changing the wattage and strengthening the signal we're putting out."

He said this plan would allow the county to use both the old and new equipment. Over time, it could replace the outdated equipment.

The new system also includes building a new Emergency Operations and Communications Center building at Duplin Commons, which would cost about $500,000.