The Edmond Sun

May 30, 2014

City faces decision on radio infrastructure

James Coburn
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — The City of Edmond faces a decision about whether to replace or upgrade public safety radio infrastructure to the tune of about $6 million, said Matt Stillwell, director of Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management.

Edmond purchased a 7-channel Motorola MHz SmartNet radio system in 1998. Seven years ago, the system interfaced with a different Motorola system operated by the state, Stillwell said.

“Our technology is going to be 20 years old in four short years,” Stillwell said. “… Think of your cell systems and how they have changed since the 1990s. The same dynamics affect radio systems.”

Changes in technology, governance and an aging infrastructure will inform what system changes the city should choose within seven years, Stillwell said.

The city maintains ownership of its seven channels and the state added 10 more channels to local sites, Stillwell said. All local governments use this system, but not everybody has paid for its maintenance. Only six municipalities help pay for the system.

“The citizens of Edmond are paying for a system of any (yearly) infrastructure maintenance, while other users of the same sites are not,” Stillwell said.

The City of Edmond joined the state’s system in 2007. A lot of other communities join the system through grant dollars, he said. The upgrade was paid for by state dollars and cost the city nothing, he said.

Questions are unanswered as to how many radios for police, fire and emergency management would be impacted by a new system, Stillwell told The Edmond Sun.

“We won’t have to replace all of the hand-held radios that are out in the field,” Stillwell said. “Most of the radios we have been purchasing for the last five years are digital capable and P-25 capable.”

The P-25 is a radio standard that all of the public safety radio vendors use, Stillwell added.

Directors of city departments recently identified $143.6 million worth of unfunded city projects they say the city needs. The Edmond City Council heard presentations about these needs, such as the public safety radio infrastructure, at a public workshop. (For coverage of other capital improvement projects discussed by the city, look at www.edmondsun.com.)

A funding source to pay for these infrastructure improvements is in the first phases of discussion, said Larry Stevens, city manager. There are concerns that the 2000 Capital Improvement 3/4-cent sales tax will not provide adequate funding for major capital projects, Stevens said.

The city welcomes public input by Edmond residents and future recommendations by the Capital Projects and Financing Task Force, Stevens added.

Either Edmond will partner with the state to upgrade with the latest digital technology, or pursue an independent digital upgrade without the cushion of state funding, Stillwell explained.

“The bottom line is we have to move away from that analogue. End-of-life issues are coming up with our technology,” Stillwell said.



jcoburn@edmondsun.com | 341-2121