New Macon-Bibb radio components coming online

Major upgrade to be complete this year

jgaines@macon.comApril 29, 2013 

Piece by piece, the new emergency radio system for all Bibb County public-safety agencies is coming together, expected to be fully operational before the end of the year.

In November 2011, Bibb County voters approved spending up to $8 million from a special purpose local option sales tax on a new 800-megahertz digital system, replacing a breakdown-prone analog system inherited from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

In August 2012 the city approved buying the major parts of that system from Harris Corp. RF Communications for $7.7 million.

Microwave transmission stations are going in at three locations, to cover all of Bibb County, said Joseph Taylor, telecommunications manager for Macon’s Information Technology Department, which is overseeing the installation.

Taylor and his staff are doing a great job, Bibb County Sheriff David Davis said Monday.

“We’re making significant progress,” Davis said. “I’m confident we’ll have it all put together by the time the system as a whole is up and running.”

Last week city police -- who will merge with the sheriff’s office in eight months when Macon and Bibb County combine -- installed the first 27 new in-car radios that will work with the full system.

“Every public safety agency in Bibb County will have to have either upgraded radios or new radios,” Davis said. That includes city police, sheriff’s deputies, the fire department, emergency management, the district attorney’s office and civil court, he said.

Taylor has said between 1,100 and 1,800 individual radios will be needed, most of which already are here.

A few more radios will be needed for the sheriff’s office and “subsets” such as the DA and courts, Davis said. But when new police cars arrive, they’ll be fitted with the new radios up front, rather than retrofitted later, he said.

The old radio system won’t be discarded, Taylor said. Instead, it will be used by non-emergency services such as Public Works and Bowden Golf Club staff.

The new radios will connect to computer-aided dispatch from the E-911 call center, with some channels encrypted, he said.

And new equipment in the Macon-Bibb E-911 Center was shown off during an April 22 open house. Mayor Robert Reichert’s proclamation for the occasion said the E-911 center received 516,516 calls for service in 2012.

New consoles in the E-911 center came from SPLOST money, but software to run on them will be bought with separate funds, said Don Druitt, Macon-Bibb County Emergency Management director. He’s chairman of the committee reviewing bids for that software.

“We’re not being driven by price. We’re being driven by the performance it provides,” Druitt said. Not until after bidders demonstrate their products’ features, sometime in the late summer or early fall, will the committee know what the various packages would cost, Druitt said.

Davis said he doesn’t know of any further major purchases needed to complete the system, which will be redundant in case any components fail. The Harris system will be state-of-the-art, capable of expanding well beyond local emergency services, he said.

“Some other counties have already talked to us about coming onto this system here. The horizon’s very broad as far as what we can do with this system,” Davis said.

To contact writer Jim Gaines call 744-4489.

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