Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Much Needed Radio Communications Upgrade in the Works for Winston County Law Enforcement/First Responders

Radio communication during emergency situations between first responders in Winston County has
been a long standing issue . There has never been adequate communicatio coverage across the county and the current system in place has been pieced together over time. This lack of radio communication has been particularly difficult for with volunteer fire departments across the county. After the 2014 tornado first responders and law enforcement actually had to borrow handheld units to allow them to access the Statewide communication system.
Since the tornado, The county has been looking for ways to improve communication. The cost of an appropriate system has been prohibitive until recently. Emergency Management Director Buddy King says that the county now has plans for a fully integrated communication system. While these plans will provide a base package, it will be a major improvement and a first step toward full integration across the county.

The overall cost to the county will be approximately $350,000 paid through through a lease purchase over a six or seven year period. The county may have to implement a 1 mil tax increase strictly for this purpose.

According to King, the system will provide radio access to MsWIN (the Ms. Wireless Information network) which is a statewide radio system for all law enforcement and first responders. This will include the Louisville Police Department, Emergency Management, Winston County Sheriff's Office, Louisville Fire Department and all volunteer fire departments. The purchase will include approximately 150 handheld radio units and two dispatch stations located in 911 office. The units will be P-25 compliant which is a national standard that allows for wider use through not only digital signals but can continue to communicate with older analog systems.

Access to the MsWIN statewide system would allow local first responders to communicate with the Mississippi Highway Patrol, Department of Transportation, Forestry Service, MEMA, the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics and all other state agencies that participate in the system. Purchase of this system will be based on the state contract and will include Motorola handheld units with a 3 year warranty.

Because the purchase price is over $100,000,  the Mississippi Wireless Communications Committee will have to approve the plans to complete the purchase.  A hearing in Jackson  will take place on September 1st. If approved, the Winston County Board of Supervisors will review interest rate options for lease purchase agreements.  Without any further delays, the new radio system could be in place in Winston County within the next few weeks.