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County extends deadline for completion of new 911 communication system

The Gadsden County Board of County Commissioners has extended the deadline for the completion of the new, improved countywide emergency 911 communication radio system by Motorola Solutions Inc. from June 2018 to February 28, 2019.

The system is primarily to be used to provide quicker and more effective communication for police, fire and ambulance services in 911 emergency situations. Commissioner Gene Morgan said the county’s emergency communication radio system was long overdue for an update and hasn’t been updated in more than 10 years.

In March 2018 a structural analysis on the county’s main cell tower, near the Gadsden County jail in Quincy, showed the tower was sufficiently powerful for current emergency radio equipment,  but lacked the capacity required for the County’s newly-acquired Motorola emergency equipment.

County officials explored lower-cost options to solve the dilemma, including strengthening the current tower. However, an engineer determined the current main tower capacity couldn’t be upgraded sufficiently to meet the demands of the new 911 emergency equipment.

County staff also examined the possibility of temporarily utilizing Talquin Electric’s communication tower, but the cost of leasing tower space from Talquin – approximately $5,000 a month – made this an unlikely option, as well.

At the June 5 Gadsden County Commission meeting, officials announced the county will likely be forced to build a new cell tower at the jail to host the new equipment.

Funding for a new cell tower, which is estimated by county officials to cost anywhere from $200,000 to $375,000, will have to be considered as part of the county’s Fiscal Year 2018-2019 budgeting process. The average timeframe expected to build such a cell tower is approximately five to eight months, according to county staff. County officials pointed out that the county should be able to recoup part of its investment in a new cell tower by leasing space on the tower once it is built.

The county purchased the new 911 system from Motorola for $1,295,000 last October. Given this already substantial investment, board members agreed Tuesday the funds to build the new cell tower will have to be found in the budgeting process for the next fiscal year.

By Randall Lieberman