Archive for Monday, May 28, 2012

City, county mull upgrade to emergency radio system

May 28, 2012


Thousands of Kansas University fans flocked to downtown Lawrence in celebration of Elite Eight and Final Four victories earlier this spring.

In preparation, teams of law enforcement officers stood at various points along the street, interacting with the crowd and dealing with problems caused by a handful of unruly fans.

In addition to Lawrence police and Douglas County Sheriff’s officers on duty, Kansas Highway Patrol troopers and other area officers assisted as part of a plan that was months in the works. But it was not seamless setting everything up, especially as organizers tried to ensure officers were on the same radio frequency.

“We had over 250 officers from around the region in town, and we have challenges with other jurisdictions that were on a different system,” said Scott Ruf, director of Douglas County emergency communications.

City and county leaders are eyeing a $6 million to $7 million upgrade to the local emergency radio communications system, mostly because of outdated technology, lack of system capacity and state and federal mandates. Local public safety officials are recommending that county commissioners grant them authority to continue formal negotiations with Motorola Communications to implement the change.

One part of the recommendation is to expand Douglas County’s aging 911 radio system into one the Kansas Department of Transportation uses, which would be beneficial for responses such as the downtown Final Four celebrations or other events like a natural disaster response.

“In the future, we would move to an event channel, and we would just patch everybody to the same channel,” Ruf said.

The upgrade would expand the county’s radio capacity, Ruf said, and it would alleviate other issues with the current system that include the difficulty police and firefighters have communicating with one another.

The process comprises several steps, including figuring out how to pay for it. Under an agreement to fund operations of the emergency communications center, the city pays 66 percent and the county pays 34 percent, but that agreement does not technically cover capital improvements.

“We are working with the county on a multiyear financing plan to pay the city of Lawrence’s share of this cost,” City Manager David Corliss said.

County Administrator Craig Weinaug said conversations between the city and county were ongoing, and he’s hopeful they can reach an agreement in the next few weeks.

Separate from the financing, Ruf said he planned soon to ask county commissioners for permission to enter more detailed negotiations with Motorola Communications.

Ruf said once the new system is in place, anyone who has a capable digital radio scanner should be able to hear law enforcement and medical traffic. According to news reports, as Shawnee County officials have worked on a radio upgrade, they have considered encrypting their new network. That could restrict what the public could hear in certain situations.

But Ruf said encryption has not been discussed in Douglas County. Under the current system, he said, agencies in Douglas County do have one small “encrypted talk group” or channel that is used for special operations on a case by case basis.

“There is no plan at this time to encrypt the new radio system,” Ruf said. “However, there is a need for some level of encryption for certain public safety functions.”


Richard Heckler 5 years, 11 months ago

Didn't taxpayers already pay for an upgrade in recent times?

We don't need to militarize local law enforcement.

Eugehne Normandin 5 years, 11 months ago

how much is KU chipping in to help with their celebrations ?

BigfootHunter 5 years, 11 months ago

Why does Motorola get the contract??? Shouldn't this be an open bid process. Motorola sells radio equipment for a premium over their competitors. They are a near monopoly.

John Duval 5 years, 11 months ago

gps is a saftey issue, all city vehicles need it period!there goes idle time,taking cars home saving taxpayers money ect,ect.and as long as it's a safiey issue the city wins.Almost every company has gps on their vehicles as they say for saftey and they save alot of money.I as a tax payer am all for gps and their saftey !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

nativeson 5 years, 11 months ago

Investment is required, but there is always the trump card that lives are on the line. When this is put out to the public, it means do not question the cost, just do it. What is frustrating about this situation as well as the facilities needs for the department is a lack of options.

The alternatives, or lack thereor, are always about short changing the department and threatening that any other option will not provide protection for public safety personnel. Ironically, the City has failed to invest in automation for the solid waste department for decades in a vocation that has one of the higher injury rates for any occupation. There is no discussion of those facts.

Let's see the options. Good, better, best. Understand the consequences of those decisions and make an informed choice.

John Duval 5 years, 11 months ago

they want to eliminate scanners from listing to what's going on thus not havimg the public [ watching thrm ] they had an upgrade in the past and piss poor planing on thier part should not create a reason to pay twice for it by the tax payers

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