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NCSO to spend more on radios

Nye County commissioners approved a $264,861 contract with Motorola Tuesday for a lease purchase of 35 digital portable radios and 50 high power mobile radios for the Nye County Sheriff’s Office.

The county won’t have to make the first $132,042 payment until July 24, 2014, the remaining $132,819 will be due July 25, 2015. That price comes after Motorola provided the county $66,250 for a one-time trade-in offer.

Nye County Information Technology Director Milan Dimac said the purchase will complete the conversion to a digital radio system, the county won’t have to purchase any other radios except replacements for broken units until at least 2024 when new federal requirements take effect.

The old radio system uses the conventional VHF frequency.

“The new radios are all distributed to the deputies and what we got so far has been all positive although we haven’t gone to the optimal use which is the total digital,” he said. “It’s not that they aren’t ready to go digital, they are. The supervising dispatcher would prefer we didn’t go to digital until everything in Pahrump is digital because it adds another resource to the dispatchers to have to handle on their console, in an emergency she was worried it might be too much to deal with.”

Thirty-five patrol cars need to be upgraded with digital radios, he said.

Former IT Director Mark Hatfield detailed a whole list of problems with the sheriff’s department radio system, which lacks coverage in certain areas. County commissioners in July approved a plan to increase coverage, improve audio quality and prepare for future upgrades required by the federal government.

Dimac said he still has about $195,000 of the $500,000 originally budgeted for the radio upgrade project. He also asked $177,966 for a Motorola maintenance contract, $72,010 to pay the Southern Nevada Area Communications Council for 800 megahertz radios and $20,880 for yearly maintenance of a VHF system.

In 2005 Nye County signed a contract with Motorola to buy a trunked radio system, in 2006 the county signed a contract with Harris to purchase a microwave system. The system was designed to allow a deputy in Pahrump to speak to a deputy in Tonopah and other law enforcement agencies, but it didn’t happen.

County Commissioner Dan Schinhofen wanted to dispense with Dimac’s overhead presentation, which he delivered in July.

“Is this all the stuff you told us before?” Schinhofen asked. He joked, “Who’s going to fix our cars?”

County Commissioner Lorinda Wichman asked Dimac to “speak to a hillbilly” in translating the technical jargon.

Dimac’s report, included in the meeting backup information, listed the following upgrades that will be required for the problems:

— The Pahrump VHF radio system received interference from Valley Electric Association and natural interference, portable radio coverage and coverage in buildings was poor.

— The trunked radio system was never turned on in Amargosa Valley, radio frequencies there interfered with Pahrump frequencies, requiring new frequencies to be obtained.

— Beatty had the most unreliable microwave link to Sawtooth Mountain, the county upgraded the firm ware and software on microwave equipment, but a microwave link may need to be replaced.

— Radio frequencies also needed to be obtained for Tonopah, where the trunked radio system on Mount Brock interferes with other frequencies.

— The repeater site in Smoky Valley in the Hadley substation provides poor coverage and needs to be moved to a higher location.

— SNACC is asking the county to either pay fees to use loaned 800 megahertz, portable radios or turn them off. Dimac said if a deputy takes them to Beatty or Tonopah they won’t work.

— A new facility was recently constructed for a repeater site at Johnnie, a vendor needs to be hired to move the equipment and leases approved with the state and Arizona Nevada Tower Corporation.

— The Nevada National Security Site will allow Nye County to install a repeater site on Skull Mountain to provide better coverage along Highway 95 and into Amargosa Valley, the county needs to add Skull Mountain site to its Federal Communications Commission license.

Dimac said joining a State of Nevada radio system currently used by the Nevada Highway Patrol, Nevada Department of Transportation and NV Energy wouldn’t be a good idea, the county would have to purchase all new radios for $1.2 million and there’s some question as to the future of the system due to federal government mandates. The preferred alternative was converting the county system into a multi-band system, which would increase radio coverage using Digital Talk Groups, which would improve building coverage, audio quality, expand inter-operability capabilities and reduce the cost of site rentals through consolidation.

The county had to deal with six repeater issues in the rural areas that were unexpected, due to lightning strikes or lack of maintenance, which were addressed, Dimac said.

“We installed those generators that have been cited as sitting around for four years. They are now in use, up and operational,” he said.

Commissioner Frank Carbone said he thought the cost was coming in higher than expected. Dimac said the whole system upgrades were going to cost $1.2 million, he predicted the total cost will come in between $700,000 to $800,000.

“I just want the board to understand by approving this we’re committing capital budget for 2015 and 2016 so that will come right off the top,” County Manager Pam Webster said.

“Three of us will be here, Butch and I may not,” joked Schinhofen, who is up for re-election next year.

“Our radio problems are going to be over for good?” Commission Chairman Butch Borasky asked.

“Eventually, just say yes,” Schinhofen jokingly advised Dimac.

“There has been an awful lot of money spent in the last few years on this radio program,” Commissioner Donna Cox said.

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