Upgrade of first-response communications system possible next year – The Richmond Register

September 1st, 2017

Posted In: News

Upgrade of first-response communications system possible next year, Richmond Register,
August 31, 2017

Article originally appeared in The Richmond Register.

An upgraded communications system for first-response agencies in Madison County at an initial cost of just under $20 million is a possibility next year. The initial cost would be covered by federal CSEPP funds, but maintenance and upgrade costs will fall to local governments after CSEPP funding ceases.

The ins and outs of a new system was the subject of a joint government meeting held Wednesday, which was attended by representatives of both city governments and the Madison County Fiscal Court.

The new system would replace the current system that was bought in 2008. Both the current system and possible new system are 800 megahertz P25 radio trunk systems, Madison County EMA director Howard Logue said.

The presentation Wednesday was given by Pat McFeely and Brian Malinich with Mission Critical Partners, a subcontractor with IEM, which contracts with FEMA.

The new system would provide interoperability, meaning all agencies in the county would run on the same system. The system also will be expandable, and will work even when cellular systems are down, Malinich said.

Logue said he thinks the system is ideal for the county.

“It’s a great system; it does what we need it to do very well,” he said. “We just need to make sure we can pay for it too.”

Logue said being sure the three governments understood the maintenance and future upgrade costs, and that they had a funding mechanism in place if the upgrade is done was the main goal of the meeting.

The 20-year-cost, including the initial upgrade cost and maintenance costs, will be around $46 million to $47 million.

The local governments would take over costs after CSEPP funding for the county is no longer available, which is when all the chemicals weapons stored at the Blue Grass Army Depot have been destroyed, estimated right now to be sometime in 2024. CSEPP covering the funding until then is not guaranteed, but the agency has been covering such costs in the past. Funding for the initial upgrade cost has already been secured.

The figures quoted at Wednesday’s meeting are based on the worst-case scenario, using the shortest possible life span of equipment, Logue said.

A discussion of ways to “cost the system out” among the three local governments was part of the presentation Wednesday. One possibility would be to split the cost according to each entity’s usage, Malinich said.

Ways to cover the costs also were discussed. Malinich gave the example of another area that did a similar upgrade and created a taxing authority to pay for it.

Whatever funding mechanism is decided, Malinich said he recommends the three governments create a board with representatives from each to determine how to split the costs.

Mission Critical Partners works with agencies to design, plan, implement and manage the lifecycles of mission critical communications, according to its website. The company deals with everything from radio and broadband, networks and 911, and facilities and operations.

Reach Kelly McKinney at 624-6626; follow her on Twitter @kellymckinney18.