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City may team with county on 911 radios
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Ancient equipment and new federal standards soon will force Conyers to replace its police radio system in a multi-million-dollar project that will include a new 220-foot tower in the Georgia International Horse Park.

One option is sharing Rockdale County’s brand new radio system, upgraded for similar reasons, that reportedly worked “flawlessly” during this week’s snowstorm crisis, according to Rockdale Fire and Rescue Chief Dan Morgan.

“We don’t really have a choice on doing this,” Conyers Chief Operating Officer David Spann said at the city government’s annual Winter Retreat last weekend in Stone Mountain. If the city’s outdated equipment were to fail right now, “We have no back-up plan…We’re dead in the water,” he said.

Spann and Morgan are discussing a shared system, and they both told the News it seems to make sense, though there are many technical and cost issues to figure out before any decision is made. Estimated costs for a new city system are roughly $3.2 million to over $5 million.

“If you had 12 kids, would you buy 12 Smart Cars or one 15-passenger minivan?” 

said Morgan. He added that it would just be part of a great “partnership” the county and city emergency services already have.

“When it’s the smallest county in the state, why wouldn’t you share?” Spann said. “If I was a taxpayer, that would be the first question I asked.”

Either way, Spann said, a new radio antenna tower will need to be built in the Horse Park because police radios currently have no coverage there, and cell phones are spotty, too. 

If an officer needs to call for help in the Horse Park right now, “You’re on your own out there,” Spann said.

The planned tower location is atop a granite outcropping between the horse facility area and the Cherokee Run Golf Club. No bids have been put out, Spann said, but he is in discussion with AT&T about constructing the tower and renting the land from the city. The firm Tusa Consulting Services is advising the city about the overall radio plan as well.

The radio systems include the 911 call center; police and emergency dispatching; and all other government services that use radios, such as public works and parks. Currently, the city and county systems are separate, but dispatchers can connect with each other as needed. 

The county radio system is based on Farmer Road. A radio tower stands there, and the system uses three other towers around the county.

The city system is based at Conyers Police headquarters in the city complex on Scott Street, where a tower stands. That tower also will need to be replaced due to age, Spann said.

The county recently installed a brand new Motorola radio system for the same reasons Conyers will have to: non-digital equipment so old that parts are no longer made, and new federal rules effective in 2017, called “Project 25,” that require upgraded public safety radio systems.

Sharing with Conyers would reduce the city’s up-front costs and give the county access to powerful radio frequencies the city currently uses. But it also could mean bigger maintenance costs for the city, among other issues. 

Funding is another issue. Conyers Chief Financial Officer Isabel Rogers said options include SPLOST, bonds, bank financing and corporate partnership deals.