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Sunday, June 19, 2016

Crossville looks at joining the county radio system for emergency services

The Crossville city council is considering a large expenditure recommended by the Crossville police and fire chiefs and would put all emergency radio traffic on the county's current digital system.

During a work session June 16, Crossville police chief Rod Shoap explained to the council that he has serous concerns about the current VHF radio system the city is now using and encouraged the city to partner with the county on their new system. According to Shoap, the new county digital radio system is working extremely well and with the city's older system there are times and places that his officers can not adequately communicate to the emergency communications dispatchers, creating what could create a dangerous situation.
Crossville police chief Rod Shoap explains the need for new radios to the city council

Chief Shoap said that even he has be caught in a situation where he could not raise the dispatch on his radio while he was making a stop and had another officer not happened along there was a possibility that something could have gone wrong.

Part of Shoap's presentation included a recording of an example of the problems his officers have been having with there communication.  The video below shows the problems Crossville police officers face with the current system.

Poor radio communication example

In addition, the way the current radios work, the police officers can't talk directly to sheriff's deputies as the tow systems are incompatible with each other. Said Shoap, “The sheriff's office is my best business partner. If I can't talk to him then I'm in trouble. This change will solve all those problems”

County Mayor Kenneth Carey and Emergency Management director Kieth Garrison attended the work session and talked about the system and saying that they welcomed the city to join the system. In addition to law enforcement and fire departments, the system will be fully expandable into the future and allow the addition of utility maintenance, road departments and school buses when the need arises for communication.

Cumberland Co. Mayor Kenny Carey talks about the radio system benefits

Chief Shoap said that in a countywide emergency such as an ice storm, there could be as many as 250 people working in the field and on the radio system. “The radio is as important as the officer's weapon or the firefighter's turnout gear,” stressed Shoap. He added that the current system leaves a very real possibility for a responder to be hurt and the possibility for litigation as well.

Fire chief Mike Turner said, “I think it's time, last week we had a mutual aid fire and we couldn't communicate.” He added, The department is reaching a level of recognition statewide and the biggest drawback is communications. It's a hindrance.”

EMA director Garrison told the council, “For 30 years we've been looking for a good communications system and this is it.”

The total cost of the upgrade is estimated to cost $1,111,497.60 and that would include additional channel capacity for the county's system, necessary software upgrades and radios for police, fire, Catoosa, utility maintenance and Meadow Park. All the current radios used by the city would have to be replaced as part of the upgrade. Some value is expected with the trade in of the current radios that will offset up to about $100,000 of the cost.

According to Shoap, if the funding is approved by July 1 he expects the system would be up and running by October 1 this year.

The council must decide if they want to move forward with the project and the expense and if so, do they want to take money from the rainy day fund balance or as was recommended by city finance director Fred Houston use a short term capital improvement note to be paid back over three years.

The council discussed briefly in the work session that there was support for the three year note and Houston will put that in the 2016-17 budget.   

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