Ellis County, Kan., to Upgrade Public Safety Communications

The county commission voted to purchase upgraded radios that will allow the exchange of better location data.

by Kaley Conner, The Hays Daily News / December 5, 2017
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(TNS) — The Ellis County Commission on Monday approved the purchase of new public safety radios for emergency officials that will bring the county one step closer to its goal of implementing mobile GPS technology.

The new Motorola radios have capabilities for automatic vehicle location and mobile data terminals in emergency vehicles. The upgrades someday could allow first responders to immediately identify the location of an emergency, and also would give dispatchers the ability to quickly identify which emergency vehicle is closest to the scene.

Emergency officials spoke strongly in favor of pursuing the technology at Monday's meeting, noting it likely would reduce response times for law enforcement, firefighters and EMS.

"Let's use Walmart for an example. If they have an active shooter or burglary up there, right now the dispatch center almost makes communication in the blind. ... They have no idea which unit is closest to say you need to go there," said Darin Myers, Ellis County emergency management coordinator and fire chief. "With this type of technology adding that into the future, they can see that incident on the screen in comparison to what units are closest to be able to dispatch those types of resources as necessary."

The automatic vehicle locators could save time in quickly determining the location of an accident, and the technology also would help firefighters and public works officials respond to the scene of a fire more quickly when aid is needed, Myers said.

Making the technology upgrades will take time and possibly additional resources, but emergency officials spoke strongly in favor of purchasing radios with the desired capabilities. Radios are expected to last the county approximately 15 years.

The county's current radios are 15 years old and no longer will be repaired by the manufacturer by the end of 2018. Ellis County officials have identified GPS technology on public safety radios as a high priority dating back to 2003.

"This is something I've been advocating for years. We are way behind other counties and dispatch centers," said Kerry McCue, EMS and health administrator. "In all likelihood, we'll be reducing the response times to not only EMS, but fire crews and law enforcement and all services with the feature. That's why it's so important to me."

The commission approved spending approximately $388,000 to purchase radio equipment and installation from Motorola and Mobile Radio Service for the sheriff's department, EMS and emergency management departments.

Because the fire department is its own taxing entity, an additional $132,000 was approved for municipal lease purchase of the new radios. Commerce Bank was selected as the lending agency. A lease option was chosen to avoid need of a tax increase, Myers said.

A total of 104 portable radios and 58 mobile units will be purchased.

Current radios — and any other old radios still in storage — will be sold or traded in to help offset expenses, saving the county a total of approximately $163,600. Other local agencies and surrounding counties could benefit from the opportunity to purchase some of these former radios at a reduced price, he said.

Buckeye Wind Energy LLC also donated $1,500 to help offset expenses.

In other business, the commission:

  • Approved automatic aid agreements for fire protection in Ellis and Victoria.
  • Entered an agreement to secure services from Ellis County Counselor Bill Jeter.
  • Re-appointed McCue as the county's Homeland Security Council representative.
  • Had three executive sessions to discuss pending litigation and attorney/client privilege. No action was taken.

©2017 The Hays Daily News (Hays, Kan.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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