Radio communication among agencies in Carthage and surrounding communities will get complicated for a while as the city works to upgrade technology and meet new federal requirements for narrow-banding radios.
The Carthage City Council approved on Tuesday spending a little over $100,000 to more than 150 hand-portable and vehicle radios and five new radio base stations to move Carthage into a new era of radio communication.
According to Police Chief Greg Dagnan, the new radios will allow the Carthage Fire Department to continue to communicate with the Jasper County Emergency Services Dispatch Center, which handles its dispatching, through Sept. 17, when the county-wide center moves to new narrow-banded radios.
They will also be installed in police, public works and other city vehicles, but those agencies won’t move to the narrow-banded frequencies until after the first of 2013 when the federal mandate to narrow-band radios takes affect.
Dagnan said this will make communication by radio between police and firefighters a little more difficult, but not impossible.
“Narrow-banding takes the same frequencies we’ve been using and divides them into smaller frequencies,” Dagnan said. “Because we’re losing bandwidth, we’ll lose about 20 percent of our coverage area.”
Dagnan said the new radios will allow police and other city agencies to move to a digital radio system, which is the wave of the future for emergency communication.
“We didn’t want to spend all this new money on new radios, then have to spend it again if we’re required to go with digital,” Dagnan said. “The advantage with these radios is that they can do it all.”
Council members had three bids to choose from and did not choose the least expensive.
The bids received were from RCS for $71,889.42; Wireless Technologies for $99,028.67; and Smith Communication for $118,511.53.
The Council voted, on the Public Safety Committee’s recommendation, to accept the middle bid, from Wireless Technologies and accepted an option for 25 protective cases, taking the cost to $100,178.67.
Carthage City Administrator Tom Short said the committee felt that Wireless Technologies had better service and a better background to provide what the city needed.
Dagnan said the city worked with Wireless Technologies on the first phase of this narrow-banding project, which involved working with the Federal Communications Commission to secure the frequencies the city needed.
Dagnan said a third phase of the project will happen in about a year when the city buys new radio towers to cover the city and surrounding area.