Archive for Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Undersheriff lobbies for upgrade

October 10, 2007

When a car chase leads area law enforcement officers to the border of neighboring counties and cities, how do they communicate with emergency service providers there?

Not by using their radios.

It's either through local dispatch or by cell phone, Leavenworth Undersheriff Ron Cranor told the Leavenworth County Commission in a public session Monday.

"Right now I can't talk to Atchison, Johnson, Jefferson or Douglas County," Cranor said. "Now, the only one I can talk to is Leavenworth County dispatch."

That is one reason why, Cranor stressed, the planned countywide communications upgrade is so essential.

"We'll all be able to talk to each other in a compatible way," the undersheriff said.

The commission reviewed a Motorola proposal Monday that would completely overhaul the county's aging, analog system, which has been in use since the 1970s, at a price tag of around $12.5 million.

The communications upgrade has been proposed as a possible expenditure of the county's voter-approved 1-cent sales tax that runs through 2016. When approved in 2004, it was estimated the tax would bring in about $27 million in county revenue.

Motorola's proposal would include every component needed to upgrade the county's system -- a complete microwave background installed on seven area tower sites, digital radios and a computer system to run them, as well as all cabling, antennae and other equipment necessary to give adequate signal coverage to 95 percent of the county.

The state of Kansas has also contracted -- through the Kansas Department of Transportation -- with Motorola for its statewide communications upgrade, a project that is already taking shape.

As an alternative to the Motorola proposal, commissioners and Sheriff's Office representatives also discussed contracting directly through KDOT as well, while still using Motorola equipment.

Sheriff David Zoellner said it was his department's "strong preference" to contract through the state for compatibility reasons. Cranor added that, with KDOT, there would be "independent oversight" and a project management team that could guide the project.

Cranor said that state and Motorola representatives have met with Leavenworth County officials every step of the way, so far, to answer questions that have come up regarding the radio upgrade.

Commission Chairman J.C. Tellefson asked if, with the Motorola proposal, a project manager would be necessary.

Tom Lynch, a consultant the county retained to review the Motorola proposal, said Monday he was not in a position to answer that question. Later, though, he added it would be helpful to have someone oversee all of the installation and coordinate between all of the county agencies that will eventually be involved to streamline the process.

Lynch agreed that there were benefits in contracting with KDOT but also emphasized, "Motorola did an outstanding job with the technology."

Commissioner Clyde Graeber said it would be premature to sign any contracts Monday. He pointed to several unknown costs that were included in the proposal, such as a possible cold backup site for $884,000, that had not fully been researched.

Cranor said two specific issues must be addressed before going ahead with broader plans.

First, he said, a new signal tower must be built to replace the Boling Grange tower, which was destroyed when a vehicle struck it in November 2006.

"The most frustrating part of this whole thing is ... we still don't have a tower," Cranor said of the downed link.

Secondly, Cranor added, negotiations must occur with T-Mobile, who purchased the microwave frequency used by the Sheriff's Office from the Federal Communications Commission.

Federal mandate states that T-Mobile must make the county's system whole again, but until a new tower goes up, there's not adequate infrastructure in place for the equipment.

"Until we get a tower, all of this can be thrown out the window," he said.

Tellefson asked if installing a new, microwave background would interfere with the current system.

Lynch, who has years of experience in the communications field and is now self-employed, explained redundancies exist, so if one link is cut, the other towers still will be able to transmit and receive signals from each other.

Once the entire upgrades are complete, "the system will grow as the county grows and as communications technology grows," he said.

For instance, he said, one day, hospitals will be able to review streaming video of a victim from paramedics before the patient ever sets foot in the emergency room.

In addition to interoperability between counties, Cranor explained, different agencies in Leavenworth County will be able to communicate in the event of an emergency.

Something as small as a dump truck carrying materials to the wrong location could be handled in a direct manner, Cranor said.

In other business Monday, the commission:

  • Voted 3-0 to table the acceptance of any bids for a storage facility to house county documents and equipment currently stored at the Abernathy Building in downtown Leavenworth until Thursday's commission meeting.

Last week the commission received four bids for a building to lease after Louis Klemp, the landlord of the Abernathy Building, notified commissioners in an Aug. 30 meeting that the county's contract with him would expire Oct. 31.

Realistically, Tellefson said Monday, a decision must be made by Oct. 15.

  • Voted, 3-0, to hire American Roofing, of Leavenworth, to fix a leaky roof at the county Health Department for a guaranteed maximum price of $2,750.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.