Harvey County takes steps in eliminating radio dead zones

Radio - KSN FILE

NEWTON, Kansas –  Dead Spots have become a big problem for Harvey County law enforcement and emergency dispatchers.

The issue stems from the FCC mandate requiring law enforcement to use less bandwidth on their radio systems.

Harvey County Director of Communications Don Gruver says currently, they have a 40 to 50 percent drop in the county’s coverage areas.

Gruver says they’rein the process of moving the county’s 911 communications to a lower bandwidth and plan to fully integrate with the state emergency radio system.

“Total system costs for this upgrade is somewhere in the area of 5 to 5 and a half million dollars, for a county our size that’s quite a bit.” said Gruver.

Even with a hefty price tag, the upgrade should remove those dead spots, where communication is spotty in some parts of the country.

On Monday, Harvey County Commissioners approved the sale of $3.7 million of bonds to be used for the project.

“The county would put up the three radio sites and the equipment associated with that, the consoles here in dispatch and the radios for the county departments, which is about 150 radios,” said Gruver.

As for the seven cities in the county, which includes Newton, leaders have agreed to foot the bill to replace all of their 400 radios.

The cost of the equipment replacement combined for the cities in Harvey County is estimated at $1.5 million.

“When it comes to interoperability, disaster work in other counties, it’s very easy for us now to go to another county or another part of the state even and communicate with other boots on the ground.” said Gruver.

In August, Newton city leaders approved $450,000 to upgrade their police and fire department radios.

That expense will come from a one mill property tax hike in the 2015 budget.

Gruver says the county is expected to transition over to the states 800 MHz emergency radio system by mid-October of this year.

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