Radio system cost may be split

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Posted by on February 03, 2010 at 12:08:25:

In Reply to: Who will Pay for Dane Co. Emergency Radio? posted by on February 03, 2010 at 11:58:36:

Radio system cost may be split
County would divide price of new emergency system with municipalities relative to use

A group of Dane County supervisors proposed a change in plans to fund the ongoing costs for a new emergency radio system last Thursday.

The $30 million radio system would allow communication between all emergency services and improve response time to emergencies. The county has agreed to pay the up-front costs but has asked municipalities to pay the operating and maintenance costs.

Currently the county pays for emergency communications, however, under the new proposal, municipalities would pay based on the number of radios they owned and the amount of yearly usage.

The plan calls to phase in the costs with the county paying 50 percent by 2013. The municipalities would take over after that with an annual audit to determine payment amounts. The estimated operating cost for the new system is between $1.4 million and $1.6 million a year.

�I understand the rational to have the county pay 100 percent because we�re all in this boat,� Supervisor Melanie Hampton, District 14, said. �But is it right for communities in the outlying areas to subsidize Madison�s use? I really do see both sides.�

According to estimates from Supervisor Denise Duranczyk, District 35, the city of Madison, the University of Wisconsin and the Department of Natural Resources would account for 60 to 70 percent of the use.

�Subsidizing Madison is not fair,� Dane County Supervisor Patrick Miles, District 34, said. �Cost-sharing makes Madison pay their fair share.�

Madison currently operates on an 800 MHz system, while the majority of the rural municipalities in Dane County operate on a VHF system. The new technology would integrate the two so they could talk together.

�The clock is ticking,� Hampton said. �We are coming to the end of a lifespan for the infrastructure and federal changes are imminent.�

Due to federal mandates, the current technology will need to be upgraded by Jan. 1, 2011. The full County Board expects to act on this by March.

However, simply meeting the federal mandates would not be enough and would result in a loss of coverage, said Miles.

�The new system will be light years ahead of what we have now,� Miles said. �Everybody wants it but nobody wants to pay for it.�

Plans for the interoperable radio system have been in the works for many years. The desire to implement the new technology stems from incidents where police were unable to communicate with snowplows while responding to emergency calls, Miles said.

Miles added recent incidents like the tornado that ripped through the town of Dunn in 2005 and the snowstorm that caused major traffic issues on Interstate 39-90 in 2008 have further fueled the desire.

The new system was developed by Dane County 911 Director John Dejung who designed a similar system in Minnesota that was praised nationally for its ability to handle the Interstate 35 bridge collapse in 2007.

�The system proposed here has 100 times the capability of the Minnesota system,� Miles said. �If we�re going to be making the investment it would be much more cost effective to do it now.�

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