Because of the federal government shutdown, says Ginger Lawrence, the new radio repeater in Auburn, on top of the Logan Telephone Coop tower, is still not up and running due to FCC licensure issues. According to Lawrence, the county applied for a license with FCC for the repeater, but evidently the license issued is interfering with someone else, so a new one must be issued.
“When the government shut down, so did the FCC, and they are the ones we have to deal with to get the license issues resolved,” said Lawerence. “The shutdown delayed this process.”
Lawrence is the director of the Emergency Communications Center (ECC/911), and although she is not in charge of the installation of the two repeaters, its activation does directly affect her and her dispatchers.
The Logan County Fiscal Court agreed to purchase two repeaters for $223,000 the first of the year. The second repeater is located on top of the water tower in Lewisburg. That repeater suffered some heating and cooling problems when first installed but have since been fixed.
These repeaters will link to the county’s new digital radio system that was activated last year. The repeaters are supposed to enhance frequency for emergency service radios out in the field. The radios are carried by the fire and police departments, as well as ambulance, jail, search & rescue, emergency management and the coroner. These agencies rely on radios to communicate with one another and to dispatch. It is very dangerous if a firefighter or police officer cannot get through to one another or to the dispatch who sends help their way if needed.
A repeater is a combination of a radio receiver and a radio transmitter that receives a weak or low-level signal and retransmits it at a higher level or higher power, so that the signal can cover longer distances without degradation. When the county bought the new multi-site digital radio system over five years ago, the contract called for at least three repeater tower sites, with the option for a fourth. Magistrates, however, started out with only one, which was placed on Reservoir Hill in Russellville, until they realized one was not going to be enough.
The new radio system was purchased by the county in 2009 for close to one million dollars, but it was not activated until last year due to several snags. The older system was analog and there were a lot of issues involving lack of communication from radio to radio and radio to dispatch.
When the license issues are resolved on the Auburn repeater, the new radios that are used by emergency services will have to be reprogrammed. There are over 400 radios in the county and four cities.