Hilkey: 911 upgrade to carry hefty price tag

By LE ROY STANDISH

Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey says the Grand Valley’s future 911 emergency dispatch will not be as effective as the current system unless an additional $4 million is spent.

The new system will convert public safety radios to 800 megahertz. The federal deadline to do so is Jan. 1, 2013. The conversion will require at least four more radio transmission towers, at a cost of $1 million each, for emergency communications — from dispatch to police vehicles — in the Grand Valley and in the outlying areas of the county to the south, east and west, Hilkey said.

One more radio tower in the valley, plus new radios for cops and patrol cars, and the valley floor will be covered, Hilkey said.

But the outlying areas of the county need at least three more towers to allow for complete coverage, he said.

The $1 million price tag for each tower includes construction and all equipment needed for operation, he said.

The public safety initiative being considered by the Grand Junction City Council tonight does not include the cost of the four towers. The additional cost would be the responsibility of the Grand Junction Regional Communications Center’s board of directors, said Troy Smith, deputy chief of the Grand Junction Police Department.

The board is seated with representatives from Grand Junction police and fire departments, the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department, Palisade Police Department, Clifton Fire Protection District and the Fruita Police Department.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean that Mesa County is responsible for these towers,” Smith said.

The city of Grand Junction manages the day-to-day operations of the Communications Center, which dispatches law enforcement, fire and medical services.

The city failed to persuade voters to back a sales-and-use-tax increase last year to build a new dispatch center, police station and several firehouses.

Mesa County’s share in the cost of building a new 911 dispatch center, as part of the public safety facility, was $1.9 million, Hilkey said.

In light of the voters’ rejection of the tax proposal, city and county leaders are discussing possibly building a separate, and more costly, 911 facility in order to meet the 2013 federal deadline.

The system will be built in stages, Hilkey said of the new 911 communications system.

When construction happens depends on when money materializes, he said.

All of the existing towers are being incorporated into the 800 MHz system, and new radio transmission equipment will be bolted onto the old towers.

The “800 MHz radio signals do not travel as well in a mountain environment as do the (current communication signals),” Smith said, explaining the need for the additional towers.

The 800 MHz system already has some components up and running. When completed it will be operational for years into the future, Hilkey said.

“This is a pretty big step,” he said. “We are laying the infrastructure for at least the next several decades.”


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