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Radio change could cost city $150,000

Staff writer

The city of Marion would be wise to start setting aside money for new radios soon to be required for continued dispatch services through the Marion County Sheriff’s Office.

“If the sheriff’s office goes to this system, we can’t communicate with them,” Police Chief Tyler Mermis said.

Because of Federal Communications Commission regulations, the sheriff’s office will be changing to a new, narrower-band radio system by 2018, although it could happen sooner, Mermis said.

Sheriff Robert Craft confirmed there is no choice in the matter.

“In the future, we will have to change our radios,” Craft said.

The changeover is going to be a major expense for departments, and will be required for all emergency services. Craft said his expectation for the cost to the sheriff’s office is in excess of $150,000.

“With our infrastructure system, the repeaters will all have to be replaced,” Craft said.

A repeater is a device that catches a radio signal and sends it on so it covers more distance. Repeaters are essential for emergency responders to stay in communication with one another and with dispatchers.

Craft said he’s encouraged all emergency departments in the county to start planning for the expense of new radios.

If the city doesn’t purchase the new radios when the sheriff’s office changes over to them, the city will have to set up their own repeater system, Mermis told Marion city council members at Monday’s meeting.

Council members got a look at initial bids for new radios, although they are not looking to purchase the radios yet.

“We’re looking at over $150,000 between police and fire,” Mayor Todd Heitschmidt noted.

Heitschmidt told Mermis that if he has savings in the department budget this year, that can be carried over toward the expense of new radios. Radio equipment is not included in capital improvement funding, he noted.

In other matters, council members:

  • Approved the sale of beer in Central Park during the 2016 Chingawassa Days event;
  • Adopted a job description for an assistant parks and recreation director;
  • Decided that umpires and coaches will be contract workers instead of employees, making it unnecessary to submit to drug testing as a condition of working at a game; and
  • Held a first reading of an ordinance changing Third St. to two-way traffic between Main and Santa Fe.

Last modified March 17, 2016

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