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Douglas Sheriff’s officials seek less costly radio system after bond referendum dropped
by Tom Spigolon
tspigolon@neighbornewspapers.com
August 20, 2013 04:28 PM | 2420 views | 6 6 comments | 73 73 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Staff / Samantha M. Shal<br>Communications officer Michelle Anderson, left, shows Megan Hendrix, a communications officer in training, how to navigate the dispatch equipment at the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office in Douglasville.
Staff / Samantha M. Shal
Communications officer Michelle Anderson, left, shows Megan Hendrix, a communications officer in training, how to navigate the dispatch equipment at the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office in Douglasville.
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Douglas County Sheriff’s Department officials are considering less costly radio system upgrades in their 2014 budget request after county commissioners recently chose not to put a proposed $10 million bond issue before voters.

Chief Deputy Stan Copeland said he plans to ask for new digital radios for those deputies “on the street the most” while the rest of the department would continue to use the current analog system it has used for decades.

“Hopefully, we will get more range,” he said.

An upgrade on some radios – which could cost about $200,000 — also will provide the department a clearer signal than it now gets with a VHF system that can be affected by atmospheric conditions, Copeland said.

“Digital will get a little more clarity,” he said. “[With VHF] the signal is either there or not.”

New Federal Communications Commission requirements for “narrowbanding” that took effect Jan. 1 reduced the broadcast range between the department’s home base and its deputies on patrol to about 55 percent of the county.

“It’s cut our range, especially on portables [radios],” he said.

The department’s radio system formerly reached about 80 percent of the county, but is now down to about 55 percent. It now has “dead spots” in such outlying areas as Austell in northeast Douglas and Fairplay and Mirror Lake in western Douglas, he said.

Copeland said dispatchers and fellow deputies are keeping closer contact with deputies on patrol to provide the same level of safety as before Jan. 1.

County commissioners had considered a $10 million bond referendum for a new digital radio system after Copeland told them about the radio limitations earlier this summer.

However, commissioners chose not to put the issue on the ballot after voting to raise property taxes 26 percent last month to fund the county government’s 2013 budget.

County government spokesman Wes Tallon said “the citizens were very definitive in not wanting” commissioners to call for bond votes.

“[Commissioners] received the message from the citizens very clearly,” he said.

Copeland said commissioners had known of the need for the new radio system for years but “had other priorities,” including a referendum for a special purpose local option sales tax for the new jail and department administrative building near I-20.

The sheriff’s office has operated with the analog radio system for decades despite neighboring law enforcement agencies – including Douglasville – having digital 800 megahertz systems that would not allow communication between the two agencies, Copeland said.

Until the narrowbanding mandate from the FCC – implemented to create more space and allow more users within the VHF radio spectrum – deputies could not talk to other agencies “but we could talk a long way,” he said.

“The VHF was strong. Until the feds required narrowbanding, it was fine,” Copeland said.
Comments
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me1234484
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September 01, 2013
They were going to spend almost one tenth of this just for a sign for the new jail.
Mo Radio
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August 22, 2013
Another 10 million dollar solution they won't even question. A consultant draws up what the customer asks for, it is put out for bid, and they get an "improved" radio system. The same poor maintenance issues will plague the new system that rendered the current system inadequate. Has anyone swept the site antennas, checked the mobile installations, and done a complete system adjustment? Who was the consultant on this?
Mitch from Oklahom
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August 21, 2013
I most certainly agree with the two comments below!!! It looks like Douglas County has been yet another victim of force feeding of bad information. Narrow banding does NOT reduce the size of the territory the system covers!!! The transmitter range is still the same. It only sounds weaker if you are using a receiver NOT set up for narrow band. Many agencies in Oklahoma have switched with no effect at all.

I strongly suggest that for the county to get the most bang out of it's bucks, find some old time amateur radio operators (ham radio) and get them involved!!! They understand the principles of reliability & readability.
oldradioguy
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August 21, 2013
If they didn't opt for P25 @ 700/800 mhz, they could easily replace their existing vhf system with new, narrow band digital radios & infrastructure considerably less expensively than 10 million bucks.

CanYouHearMeNow
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August 21, 2013
You can thank the telecom cartels and the FCC for their forced obsolescence of otherwise perfectly functional and cost effective land mobile radio systems.

The whole game here is so certain companies who's name ends in "Solutions" can sell costly, high priced and short life spanned complex 800MHz trunked radios that require taxes to be raised to pay for them, then constant forklift upgrades to keep them on the air.

Another fine example of the RACE TO WASTE our government is pursuing. At a time when the economy is in the toilet, now another large capital expenditure awaits the already cash strapped Douglas county.

Ironic too, how VHF conventional radio is what the Feds grab when the fancy trunking systems fail during disasters like Hurricane Katrina and Sandy, and wildland firefighters turn to simple, flexible and affordable programmable VHF radios to do their jobs, as does the US Forest Service.

Maybe it's time to get rid of the FCC, they do nothing but serve their constituents, the telecommunications cartels, who's only purpose is to clear as much RF spectrum to auction it off the highest bidder. Who cares if public safety gets pushed to the side, they can just pay to be on someone's cellular system, right?

Yeah, that will work real well come the next disaster or terrorist attack.
dontdrinkthecoolaid
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August 23, 2013
The FCC narrow band mandate for January 1, 2013 was announced in 2004. This was hardly a surprise. To answer demand for RF spectrum, the FCC had to make narrower channels. The Douglas County Jail has a digital system, non P25, not 700/800MHz. The Telecom cartel CanYouHearMeNow refers to consists of one GIANT player, starts with an M. Law enforcement agencies trip over themselves to give that player as much money as the player asks for in order to have their own 700/800 MHz P25 Simulcast Trunking system. Why? Only one player makes it... So with the competition out of the way, they can command MILLIONS, and these agencies will pay. Oldradioguy is correct about replacing the old analog with digital infrastructure and radios, provided they can get clean VHF frequencies (BIG CHALLENGE in Metro ATL), if they can get these frequencies the system can be had for FAR less than 10 Million dollars. Digital radios make up for the loss in coverage by narrow banding, by using Forward Error Correction (FEC), sometimes surpassing the old analog coverage with clearer audio, there is a bonus. The commissioners should be applauded for not handing over their money to a player that is not looking for a solution for the county, but a solution for themselves.
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