By Anne Hassler Heidel
The county’s aging communications system will get a much-needed upgrade in the coming months. The county commission met with representatives of Tusa Consulting, McPherson City Commissioners, and local first responder personnel to go over the final proposal and negotiated agreement that will help make the county’s communication system more efficient and reliable.
The county originally contracted with Tusa Consulting in June of 2016 to conduct a comprehensive radio study.
In March 2017, the commission agreed to put out request for proposals for public safety radio upgrades. Proposals from Harris Communications and Motorola were received and discussed with the commission extensively in 2017.
The final agreement includes the 15-year cost of ownership of $11,965,837.70 for the new tower, necessary equipment, installation and maintenance.
The plan calls for four simulcast towers to be installed in the county in Lindsborg, Roxbury, McPherson and Moundridge. A 168-foot communication tower will be built at the Law Enforcement Center. The proposal originally called for a 300-foot tower but given the LEC’s proximity to the airport, the FAA only approved a 168-foot tower.
The current emergency communication system was installed in 1994 and the county has been aware of necessary upgrades mandated by the federal government since 2011, according to Emergency Communications Director Julie McClure.
The new P25 system will better integrate with the states communications system and will work with a variety of radio devices no matter who is the manufacturer. Coverage will also improve to 97%.
Financing for the project will be determined in the coming weeks by the commission, according to Rick Witte, McPherson County Administrator. Regardless of the type of financing, an increase in the mill levy will be needed, likely in the two mill range which Witte said would amount to approximately $23-$26 per year on a $100K house for the next 15 years.