Archive for Wednesday, July 28, 2004

County official warns city of sky-rocketing radio costs

July 28, 2004

Now's the time to start budgeting for new public safety radios, Chuck Magaha told city council members Monday night.

Magaha, director of emergency management for Leavenworth County, said that by mid-2007, public safety radios -- such as those used for fire, police, ambulance and schools -- must comply with revised federal guidelines.

This means, Magaha said, that nationwide, most, if not all, emergency radios will have to be replaced with new radios that have split band capacity.

And that means, he added, more money.

"A normal radio would costs $500 to $600 now," Magaha said. "I just purchased two through Homeland Security. The same radio now costs $2,800."

For the county to establish what Magaha termed "the backbone" of a new system, it will cost about $23 million.

"That's a guesstimate at this point," Magaha said. "But we're just talking about the backbone -- we're not talking about the handhelds that go into the trucks and cars."

And, he said the $23 million would just be for the county departments. That doesn't include what schools, fire departments and cities will have to pay.

The national change in requirements has come about because of competition from cellular phones, Magaha said.

"They have literally saturated all the 800 megahertz," Magaha said. "... What's going to happen here in the short term is if somebody keys up on a Nextel phone, it could have the possibility of interfering with the law enforcement, emergency or EMS."

All governmental agencies that use public safety radios must have a replacement plan in place by January 2006. Magaha said.

"I'm not here to sell anything," Magaha told council members. "Just to make you aware of the process, or what's going to happen -- it's inevitable."

Also at Monday's city council meeting, Tonganoxie city attorney Mike Kelly gave council members a revised copy of the all-terrain vehicle ordinance, which will allow their use on private property.

The ordinance applies to all terrain vehicles, go carts, mini bikes, electric powered wheelchairs, scooters and electric personal assistance mobility devices and farm equipment.

A previous draft of the ordinance forbade the use of ATVs on private property.

The council took no action regarding this ordinance at Monday night's meeting.

In other matters, the council set the date for the budget hearing. It will be held at 7 p.m. Aug. 9 in council chambers.

And the council approved the route for the Aug. 11 Leavenworth County Fair parade. The parade, which will begin at 6:30 p.m., will follow the same route as last year.

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