Residents who use a police scanner to listen on on what the city's emergency workers are doing will notice a big change this week.
Carthage Police Chief Greg Dagnan told the Carthage City Council on Tuesday the city was completing a conversion to a digital radio system as part of a year-long upgrade to the radios.
The consequence of this is police scanners that listen for analogue signals can no longer pick up Carthage police, fire and other radio traffic.
“As of right now, there is no digital scanner that can decode the digital (Kenwood) NexEdge system that we're using,” Dagnan said on Wednesday. “That is not intentional on our part, in fact I prefer that people can listen in on what we do and we're working on a solution so that people can listen in. Unfortunately for now, either until the technology catches up or we come up with a solution, people cannot listen to us on the scanner.”
Dagnan said the city has spent approximately $300,000 on the new system and the dozens of in-car mobile radios and hand-held portable radios for officers, firefighters, public works workers and others.
Dagnan said the change was part of an overall upgrade to meet new federal requirements.
“The federal government mandated that we go with narrow-banding and that costs money to change out the radios,” Dagnan said. “Unfortunately, it also decreases the performance of our radios, so rather than spend thousands of dollars to go with narrow-banding and decrease the performance of a radio system that already didn't work real well, we decided we would go the next step, since the feds were probably going to require us to go digital in the future anyway. We bought a radio system that goes above and beyond what the feds require and is also compatible with all the radios in the county.”
Dagnan said the new radios will allow a Carthage city official with a radio to communicate with Carthage from almost anywhere in Jasper County.
He said the former radio system had nowhere near that kind of performance.
“The old system had a lot of places where portable hand-held radios didn't work,” Dagnan said. “And this is more important for Chief (Chris) Thompson, and the fire department, almost none of his radios could reach back to Carthage once he went out in the (rural) fire district.”
Dagnan said the police department and other city departments started using the new digital system last weekend and the fire department started using it on Wednesday.
In other business, the city council on Tuesday approved a budget amendment to the 2012-2013 budget that included an addition to the fire department's allocation to account for more than $7,000 in unexpected spending related to the big fire on June 1 on the Square.
Page 2 of 2 - The city reported that the fire department spend the additional money on overtime, tools, fuel and other needs.
City council members and Mayor Mike Harris were unanimous in their praise for the fire department, police department, street and public works employees who responded to the blaze that destroyed the Sassy Spoon restaurant.
Also, City Administrator Tom Short reported that receipts in city's one-percent general fund sales tax were down from last year, when receipts ballooned because of sales that came to Carthage because of the May 22, 2011 Joplin tornado, but were up compared to two years ago and higher than expectations.
He said the general revenue one-cent tax collected $206,309, which was 3.5 percent above the budgeted $199,338.60 number.
For the fiscal year, 2012-2013, the general fund has collected $2,068,615.09, which is down from the tornado-inflated number last year of $2,226,854.31, but up from the 2011 figure of $1,890,073.