Emergency communications in the county are not being adversely affected by a “debacle” in the statewide 800 MHz communications system.
County Emergency Manager Rob Fiedler told the county commissioners on Monday that the state’s $53 million, 800 MHz system doesn’t work to specifications or interface properly with local responders, and some big front range counties are dropping the system completely.
Delta County began installing elements of the grant-funded system some nine years ago. Here the systems consist of three communication towers costing almost a half million dollars each, a $350,000 base station, and at least 180 Motorola hand-held and mobile radios that cost $2,500 each.
All of the equipment, including maintenance on the three comms towers, is paid for by the state through grants or budget appropriations, Fiedler has explained. The county maintains its base station, individual radios, and commissioners bought 800 MHz for road and bridge department supervisors.
The county hasn’t run into maintenance problems with its hand-held units. But Fiedler told the commissioners that Motorola will quit providing repair and software support for its six-year-old radios. He also said that the General Assembly is considering legal action against the company over the matter.
When the 800 MHz system was unveiled, it was praised as a public safety communications enhancement that would allow fire, police, ambulance, and other responder agencies to communicate more efficiently in emergency situations.
The county has kept its former VHF communications system in working order since beginning the switch to the state’s 800 MHz protocol. Compared with the $2,500 units, new VHF hand-held units cost $198, Fiedler said.
Fiedler said the county’s VHF system will now be “upgraded” and operate in tandem with the state’s 800 MHz equipment, which is being used to communicate with the Colorado State Patrol.
With the two systems operating as designed, 96 percent of the county’s territory is covered by emergency radio communications, Fiedler said.