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07-26-06 Law enforcement back to using phone

By Tim Cox

  Mercer County officials are mulling a plan to restore statewide radio communications between sheriff's offices after the county's aged unit recently died.

  County law enforcement officials use the bandwidth to stay on top of bulletins and other statewide information. With the existing system down, county officials have had to resort to using the telephone to relay and receive such important information.

  "The statewide radio went kaput," 911 Coordinator Monte Diegel said. "It's pretty well shot."

  The system is mainly used to exchange law enforcement information with surrounding counties, including those in Indiana, Diegel said. The unit has been out of service for a couple of weeks and repairs would run nearly as much as a new system, he said.

  The statewide radio unit is separate from other county radio communications, which remain in working order.  Replacing the existing system, which has been in use for many years, would cost $7,000 or so, Diegel said. A cheaper alternative would be to use a mobile radio system that can accomplish the same job for between $1,900 and $2,600, based on two price quotes, Diegel said.

  McAfee's Communications in Celina bid $1,994 for the project. Radio Hospital in Lima bid $2,670 for the work.

  The main difference in the bids is that the Radio Hospital bid includes an expanded system that can be interfaced with the county's new 911 control console. The radio system would allow county officials to monitor numerous statewide emergency bandwidths, although not all at the same time.

  Either bid is a viable solution, Diegel said.

  "It gets us the fix we need and gets us back on the air," Diegel said. "A lot of agencies use mobile radios like these."

  Even though the radios are considered mobile, any new unit would be housed in the basement of the sheriff's office where the existing equipment is kept, Diegel said.

  County officials have money left over from the purchase of the new 911 console to pay for the new radio equipment.

  Commissioners, though, struggled to make a final decision. They said they would like to buy the equipment locally from McAfee but also like the expanded system offered by Radio Hospital. McAfee cannot offer the same setup, they said.

  "I'd like to buy locally if at all possible," Commissioner Bob Nuding said.


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