05/05/05 — New system will facilitate communication

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New system will facilitate communication

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on May 5, 2005 1:50 PM

A new radio system, allowing all emergency responders within Wayne County to communicate, will be phased in during the next three years.

County commissioners on Tuesday approved the preliminary communications plan, which is expected to cost around $7.5 million.

The new radios will replace an outdated system, explained Delbert Edwards, and will also meet new federal laws.

Edwards, the county's telecommunications supervisor, said the federal government is narrowing the width of radio bands allowed on VHF channels.

The new federal requirements for narrower radio bands will be phased in over several years, Edwards said.

The first step in the county's communications plan will be to install an eight-channel system that allows news from the central dispatch office to be broadcast simultaneously.

Those eight channels will include a main route for emergency medical responders, fire departments, sheriff's office; a sheriff's auxiliary channel; two channels for the Goldsboro Police Department; a municipal police channel for smaller towns in the county; a tactical channel; and an events channel for multi-agency responses.

But since eight channels won't allow the county the growth potential it needs, Edwards said, the second phase of the project will be to add "trunking" capabilities.

Trunking isn't dependent on radio frequency, but uses digital technology to expand radio growth capacity, he said.

Edwards said that having trunking capabilities would expand the county's communications capacity.

He likened the plan to expanding from one check-out lane to several in a supermarket.

The proposed plan will also enable the county to meet the "95/95" standard. That means radio contact can be achieved in 95 percent of the county, 95 percent of the time.

The new plan requires five new transmitters in Goldsboro, Fremont, Seven Springs, Mt. Olive and Grantham.

The upgrade will also meet the "P25" standard, a national protocol that's mandatory for Homeland Security projects.

State officials want all counties to buy the VIPER communication system, which would cost around $14 million. The state has said counties not using the VIPER system wouldn't receive the $1.2 million in Homeland Security grants.

Two weeks ago, the commissioners unanimously passed a resolution opposing the funding process of Homeland Security grants as defined by the state Department of Crime Control and Public Safety.

County Manager Lee Smith said some of the state's directives on the spending of Homeland Security funds were in conflict with the county's needs.

The VHF trunking system the county is planning to use will better serve Wayne County's communication needs, Smith said.

And, he added, it wouldn't be funded using ad valorem taxes, but would pay for itself through phone surcharge fees and grants.

Commissioner Andy Anderson said the county is growing, and needs expanded communications.

"This county can't carry on by just being a rural community," Anderson said. "We're a mixed community, and we need to plan ahead so we can bring in industry."