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CCSO requests funds for upgraded radios

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Managing Editor

The Chilton County Sheriff’s Office presented a request for $215,000 for emergency communication P25 radios during a Chilton County Commission work session on Sept. 7.

CCSO has applied for a grant for $50,000, which could be used to reimburse a portion of the funds.

The request is expected to be considered during the commission voting session on Sept. 14 at 6 p.m.

Time is important because the department could save a little more than $27,000 if the department commits to purchasing the radios prior to Sept. 15.

Commission Chairman Joseph Parnell expressed concern that the request included some portable units that he had been told would not work once the new system goes live.

Trae Caton gave an update on the project and explained that portables could be used with the system.

The radios will work with the countywide communications system that is being constructed.

Caton took on the project after the Chilton County 911 board voted to dissolve the special project coordinator position, which Dan Wright had been filling even though he moved out of the county.

“Today, we actually started installing the generators at the two tower sites,” Caton said.

These generators should ensure power to the system even if the power goes out.

Caton said the company that put in the tower components, Motorola, was coming in to “optimize our system in order to get the best coverage possible.”

Prior to this optimization, there were concerns about the system working in the north end of the county and a couple other places.

Caton hesitated to give a date when the system would be fully operational.

“The law enforcement system we are using now is AT&T push to talk phones, this past week it crashed over 10 times,” Caton said. “It left the officers without a way of reaching dispatch.”

Caton said he would like to ask the 911 Board to conduct a study of coverage provided by the existing towers and if additional towers are needed. The study could also include the best location for those new towers.

Parnell, who also serves as the chair of the 911 Board, said Caton was given the authority to request such a study when he was given leadership of the project at the last 911 meeting.

If more towers are needed, the antennae could be added to an existing tower for a monthly usage field.

It may be possible to use American Rescue Plan Act funding for such a project.

“My goal once we are able to go live is let’s swap law enforcement over first,” Caton said. “… Let’s test it for a few weeks, maybe a couple days, whatever we need to do until we are comfortable with it and then we will transition the fire departments over because they are going to take a little bit longer. It might take six months to a year before all of the fire departments are ready to swap over.”

Consoles would be good to make the communications with the volunteer fire departments and 911 better, Caton said.

Chilton County Schools is already using the P25 system for communication with the school buses.

Creating a countywide communications system had been initially chosen about two years ago to address coverage issues with the current system. Caton said the Chilton county system will use some towers on the borders of surrounding counties that already have a P25 system.

Parnell and Caton said those that have heard from counties that have fully implemented a P25 system have seen good results.

Many departments have applied for grants for the P25 radios. However, not everyone who has applied was approved.

Also during the work session, the commission discussed the budget for the motor vehicle department, which is set to add two positions and a fee to cover mailing tags. The commission also heard a presentation from Alex Jackson with an investment firm about a loan program for funding roads and bridges.

The commission has added approving the next fiscal year budget to its Sept. 14 agenda.