Dale County commissioners discuss frustrations with emergency radio system

Dale County commissioners discuss frustrations with emergency radio system
(Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News)

DALE CO., AL, (WSFA) - Commissioners in Dale County hope they are one step closer to solving an issue they say they have dealt with for about two years - an emergency radio system that doesn't work consistently.

Commissioners met with representatives from Motorola, CenturyLink and Troy University Wednesday morning to discuss the ongoing issue. According to Chairman Mark Blankenship, the county signed a contract for a P25 Emergency Radio System in September of 2015 from Motorola. CenturyLink has connections tying some radio sites together, according to Blakenship. Troy University partnered with the commission in hopes of being able to use the system, too.

Blankenship says they've invested thousands and haven't gotten the service they were promised.

"We have nearly $900,000 invested in this and we're often times having to switch and go back to our old radio system because we have failures, and it's frustrating," said Blakenship.

Some of the roughly $894,000 investment includes costs from the initial contract, a new tower that was built to use the system, and other costs Blakenship says weren't initially communicated.

"When I present something to the commission for $694,000, and then find out that that includes the radio being in a box. It's not installed or programmed in the vehicle," said Blakenship.

The commission says the point of getting the new emergency radio system was to help the sheriff's department be able to communicate with each other. The department was dealing with dead coverage in some areas.

Sheriff Wally Olsen was vocal during the meeting, discussing the frustrations and concerns of his department. Olsen says when the system works, it's great, but the department hasn't been able to rely on it.

"When they pick up that radio that's their life line. If they can't get the help that they need because the radio is not working through the communication then it's an issue. The deputy's life is in danger," said Olsen.

In hopes of fixing the problems with the system, representatives discussed two next steps. One involves either fixing or replacing the DSL line connection. This is the connection between radio sites and allows officers to communicate. The other is assessing the power supply at the radio sites and ensuring there is proper power at the sites.

Motorola representatives wouldn't speak on camera at the meeting, but released a statement saying, "Overall the system is working and we are addressing issues that have caused intermittent problems."

CenturyLink Corporate Communications released a statement about the discussions:

As a subcontractor, CenturyLink plays a very minor role in the two-way radio system. Although we offer DSL, fiber and microwave options, we have been asked to provide a DSL line, which has been operating as designed. We have no trouble tickets for the DSL line we provide.

All parties plan to meet Dec. 5 to discuss progress on addressing the issues discussed. Blakenship says depending on the outcome of that meeting, they will decide whether they will move forward in getting their money back for the system or legal action.

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