Sheriff Wallace Whittaker broke the news to fiscal court Tuesday that the county’s new digital radio system was having a few problems.
Whittaker, who was handed the job of organizing the installation of the new $600,000-plus system, said he believed it was doing what it was supposed to, but said there were a few glitches that needed to be worked out.
“With anything, there is always going to be a few problems at the beginning,” said the sheriff, who felt confident the issues would be taken care of.
The most noticeable glitch is the portable radios themselves and how they will not work when they are inside a brick or concrete structure. There are also some radios out there that cannot pick up service in certain areas, which was one of the complaints that brought about the purchase of a new system in the first place.
The new system was activated a few weeks ago and some firefighters with the Lewisburg and Auburn departments have expressed not being able to get a signal.
The county bought the new system in 2009 soon after an Auburn firefighter came to fiscal court telling them he could not get through to dispatch (911) after an arsonist pointed a gun in his face that luckily misfired. Other emergency agencies expressed problems as well with the very old system. Another reason the county purchased the system was due to a federal law that requires all analog systems, which is what the county had, to be switched over to digital.
Whittaker said the new system is much clearer than the old one. Part of the problem with reception he feels, comes from wattage. “Some of the radios that were purchased by departments are 30 watt instead of 45 watt,” Whittaker said.
Magistrate Jo Orange strongly expressed that it was the company’s problem who sold the system to the county.
“Let them deal with it,” said Orange, with Magistrate Thomas Bouldin agreeing.
“They sold us a system that is supposed to cover the county and be safer. This is their problem,” Orange said.
Whittaker told the court that he had spoken with several people, including representatives from Kenwood, the company who sold the system.
“They said they would help fix whatever problems we were having,” said Whittaker, adding they were coming to Logan County Wednesday. “The system was never supposed to be a 100 percent system. It’s kind of like a cell phone, sometimes there are areas it won’t work.”
There were some members of the Lewisburg Fire Department at Tuesday’s meeting, including Sam Romines and fire chief Eddie Schweers, who both spoke about areas in the northern part of the county where they could not get a signal.
“It is primarily the hand-helds,” said Romines, adding that the fire department was at a location and the truck radio would not work as well.
Schweers invited magistrates after the meeting Tuesday to come with him while he tests the radios and they can see for themselves.
“This is exactly the reason we purchased the system,” said Orange referring to the dead spots.
Whittaker said at this time this is a one antenna system. He added that it was always in the future plans to add antennas in both Lewisburg and Auburn to help better the reception.
“We have been talking about putting an antenna on the water tower near Lewisburg and on the Logan Telephone tower in Auburn,” said Whittaker, who has been in contact with legislators about funding that may be out there to help pay for the expense.
Magistrate Thomas Bouldin said the county needed everyone out there who had a radio to document when and where the problems occur.
“We are concerned about you, but until we know what the problem is we can’t fix it,” said Magistrate Russell Poore.
Judge Executive Logan Chick told the magistrates that the county has held off in final payment to Kenwood to assure the system works as it should.
“This is a trial by error deal,” said Whittaker. “It’s going to take some time.”