Contracted out to Williams Communications in Feb. 2012 for $2.3 million, the county’s projected “cut over” to the new frequency is currently expected to conclude at the end of the month tentatively, according to Project Manager with Williams Communications, Ken Barclay.
Barclay added that the request for an extension from the FCC, was the direct result of a delayed delivery of necessary hardware for equipment installation.
“All site construction is built and all RF (Radio Frequency) equipment is completed. It was tested in the factory, and witnessed by Gordon County’s Richard Cooper. All equipment is now in Gordon County in various shelters,” said Barclay. “We started this week bolting down and installing new RF equipment to meet the required Jan. 31 deadline.”
Upon the successful installation of all equipment, testing the system will come next and will include field tests to ensure the system works properly before agencies are cut over.
“We have broken the county down into half mile grids. At select grids we will see if we can physically talk and be understood between the dispatch center and where we are standing,” said Barclay.
The cut over will not occur for all first responders at one time, but will gradually bring in one agency at a time to ensure everyone switches over successfully.
“What we will do is switch one (agency) over and run through a series of test to make sure everyone made it over, both will be monitored for a short while, old and new, just in case someone doesn’t switch over at the right time,” said Cooper. “It’s just a matter of monitoring to see if there are any issues, everything is going to be tested before we start letting people use it.”
The first agencies to be switched over will be Calhoun City including the fire department, police department, utility department, public works, and school buses. If all tests go well with the city, next will be the county frequencies including the fire departments, Sheriff’s office, road department, public works, and EMS.
The system will allow for clearer communications between users and will also allow interagency communication in the event of a major disaster, whereas normal day-to-day communications allow for radio communication within an agency.
“It’s just a matter of switching to that system,” said Cooper.
The project included construction of one new tower approximately 220 feet tall at the Firetower Rd. site in Calhoun, and improvements to two existing tower sites, one in Fairmount and the other in downtown Calhoun.
The newly constructed 220 ft. tower will provide coverage for the county and is also equipped with antennae to transmit data to the dispatchers from all first responders. The new tower site also has a propane tank to fuel a back up generator at the site in the event of a power outage, according to Barclay.
Additionally, the new tower, which belongs solely to Gordon County, will have the ability to rent out tower space for county approved users, opening the possibility for profit from the tower, under the condition additions do not interfere with county and city radio communications.
The project is expected to conclude to meet the Jan. 31, 2013 deadline, extended from the initial Jan. 1, 2013 deadline.
The new system will bring Gordon County from a kilohertz (khz) frequency to a 800 Megahertz frequency, providing clearer operability between agencies, in what Gordon County Administrator Randy Dowling called, “the golden grail” of radio communications.