The Board of County Commissioners approved up to $500,000 for the purchase of 50 new digital radios this week as the Information Technology Department begins to implement the first phase of switching over to a digital system for all emergency departments in the county.
IT Director Milan Dimic and Radio Technician Paul Bowman gave commissioners a demonstration of the superiority of the digital radio system they sought funding for in comparison to the two systems currently in place, the 800 megahertz and VHF, before asking commissioners to approve the purchase during Tuesday’s commission meeting.
Though Dimic explained in total the county will need to purchase 400 radios to cover the entire county, they will be able to start by purchasing them in small increments as the new digital radios can communicate with the other two systems already in use.
The digital radios cost approximately $6,000 each after a $750 rebate Motorola plans to give the county for the old systems.
“Currently, you’ll see in the backup materials, Motorola is offering us a plan where they are giving us a $750 rebate on the old radio systems that are obsolete, just to help us out on the budgeting part of it, but they’re about $6,000 apiece this year. And the reason for that is the first radio demonstrated only does that VHF frequency, the second radio does just 800 megahertz, but the third radio does all of that,” Dimic explained.
The switch is estimated to take anywhere from 18 to 24 months as IT personnel need to reach several mountainous areas to work on the county’s communication towers.
The new radios will allow the county to stay on the Southern Nevada Area Communications Council (SNACC), which gives them interoperability with multiple agencies across the state.
In all, the 400 radios are estimated to cost the county $2.4 million by the end of the two-year project.
Sheriff Tony DeMeo explained the benefit of remaining with SNACC, as opposed to purchasing radios and joining the state system, is they will have continued interoperability with 50 or 60 agencies across the state and SNACC has a set plan already laid out for what technology they plan to implement in the next few years.
“The system they’re on is the EDAC system, and they’re replacing it in two to three years. And we have no idea, and that was something the commissioners were not aware of that I was back in October, is the EDAC system is an analog system and they have no idea what system they’re going to in two to three years. The system is right now pretty much obsolete. So they’re making a change-over, but they have no idea where they’re going to go.
“Las Vegas Metro is going with the digital system, they’re getting off the microwave system. This will keep us current and keep us in sync with the other agencies that are going to have interoperability. If we went to the state system, the only people we could talk to would be NHP (Nevada Highway Patrol),” he said.
Commissioner Dan Schinhofen questioned if there would be any kind of savings if the county chose to join the state versus remaining with SNACC.
Dimic said there would not be any savings as the county would still need to purchase new radios to join the state system.
In all, Dimic said the purchase of the first batch of radios was estimated to cost approximately $262,000.
According to a budgetary outline submitted as part of the presentation, the Motorola maintained cost of the radios and the 800 megahertz use agreement with SNACC is included in the IT department’s budget.
The cost of the SNACC VHF yearly maintenance will come from the NCSO budget.
The county is only being asked to pay for the new radios.
After hearing the presentation and reviewing the back-up material submitted on the topic, Commissioner Lorinda Wichman made a motion to approve the outlined budget for the first phase of the project, with a note not to exceed $500,000 for the purchase.
Schinhofen seconded the motion, but asked for further discussion, before the board approved the measure 5-0.
Dimic said his department will likely look at purchasing an additional 50 radios next year when they are in a position to spread the digital coverage north to areas like Beatty.