Communication is an important part of public safety.

Franklin County Commissioner Richard Oglesby, a retired Ottawa firefighter, has experience with the current county emergency radio system and knows its limitations. The Franklin County Emergency Communications System is 12 years old and has surpassed its life expectancy.

Alan Radcliffe, county emergency management director, presented to the commissioners Wednesday a $2.9 million proposal for a Motorola P-25, 800 megahertz radio system.

“It is going to be a good project for the county and subscribers,” Oglesby said after hearing the proposal. “It will provide a lot better service than we are getting right now. It brings us all in a current system. It puts everybody in a more interoperability to talk to each other. We really don’t have that capability now. It is expensive doing business sometimes. It will be good for Franklin County. It will be good for public safety.”

Oglesby remembers going on fire calls and not being able to communicate with the police department.

“This opens up a better line of communication,” he said. “We currently have people on VHF and UHF. You are on two frequency bands, so you don’t have interoperability. Sometimes that information does not get passed the way it should.”

The proposed infrastructure cost is $1.7 million; radio equipment and accessories, $472,000, and 911 dispatch equipment, $514,000. Motorolla’s discounts of $575,000 cuts the proposal to $2.9 million.

Subscriber radio cost is nearly $1 million, which will be paid for by the subscribers. The 911 portion will be paid out of the 911 fund, which will leave roughly $1.1 million to be financed by the county.

“It is a county benefit that is benefiting others as well,” Oglesby said.

Randy Renoud, county commissioner, said this system is forward thinking.

Radcliffe said the new system hooks into the state’s system, and Franklin County can communicate with other state and county agencies.

“The proposal includes all our hardware, software and the repeaters,” he said. “We are proposing [this system] for our current needs with little bit of excess. If we need to add to it in the future, we can.”

Radcliffe said the system will cover 95 percent of the county with portable radios and give better reception inside buildings.

“We are currently running a commercial grade radio system,” he said. “There is a big difference between a commercial grade radio system and a P-25 public safety mission critical system. On this system, there is redundancy built in and users should not know if we have a problem.”

Radcliffe said the maintenance agreement for years two through 10 costs between $103,000 and $119,000, which is higher than the county is paying now.

“Our maintenance warranty is higher, but that is to provide our system to continually operate,” he said. “[The system] should not go down. That is what the maintenance is for.”

Derek Brown, county administrator, said the maintenance package is for security and system updates and upgrades.

“Those are extremely beneficial because at the end of 10 years, we will have had a system that has been upgraded throughout that period which would save us from having to reinvent the wheel and do it all again,” Brown said. “We would have a fairly up-to-date system. The cost of upgrading in a decade would be far, far less because of this warranty.”

Radcliffe said if the county maintains this system, at the end of 10 years, we will still have a system that is operational.

“The current system, when it comes to the end of life, you replace it,” he said.

Radcliffe said emergency personnel will continue in the foreseeable future to use radios to communicate with each other.

“That is the best way for public safety to communicate with real time information,” he said. “We will be able to track those radios. With this new system, you have to register that radio on to the system. We can get reports that will help us. They will be able to tell us which towers are using the system the most.”

Brown said county personnel worked on this proposal for more than a year.

“What is in front of you is a product of a lot of negotiating and a lot of refining,” Brown, who also is the county counselor, said.

Stan Lantis, Pomona fire chief, gave a thumbs up to the system.

“We have been tap dancing on this thing for two years or longer,” he said. “My board is on board. We need to move on it. We need to get it behind us.”