Emergency radio network expected to connect region by 2018


Emergency radio network expected to connect region by 2018

Brentwood approves $4.1M for $22.5M Regional Radio System

By DESSISLAVA YANKOVA

A high-level emergency communications system that will streamline communication among Brentwood, Franklin and Williamson County agencies is expected to be ready by the summer of 2018.

The proposed $22.5 million Regional Radio System will allow all public safety agencies in the county, Franklin and Brentwood to communicate seamlessly for routine calls and emergencies. It also will allow communication with Metro Nashville agencies.

Nolensville, Fairview and Thompson’s Station are not part of the project but can eventually buy into the system.

The system will provide the highest level of integration recommended by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Brentwood commissioners unanimously approved on Monday, Nov. 14 the city’s initial $4,050,000 share of the system developed under the Williamson County Joint Communication Network Authority. The authority is working on the overall project under a proposed contract with Motorola.

The county has already approved its almost $14 million share of the system. On Friday, Nov. 18, the authority is scheduled to vote on the contract, the final approval of which is contingent on Franklin approving its $4.5 million share on Nov. 22.

Funding planned

Now, each agency has different public safety radio systems that are not designed to talk to each other. In 2007, when Franklin installed a new 800 MHz radio system, Brentwood and county agencies that are using older systems lost the ability to effectively communicate with Franklin’s public safety agencies. There have been temporary work-around solutions in place that allow limited communications among some of the agencies, but a truly integrated radio system does not exist today in Williamson County, according to the project’s guidelines.

“Given our location, it’s not unusual for our officers to be responding north of Old Hickory Boulevard into Davidson County,” Brentwood City Manager Kirk Bednar said. “Our current radio system will cover them for a while but if they’re on a pursuit on I-65, it’s quite possible they will exceed (the coverage of) our radio system, and then you’re using cell phones to call back to dispatch.”

radio network emergency Brentwood City Commission
Brentwood City Commissioners approved Brentwood’s share of expenses for the radio system on Nov. 14. // DESSISLAVA YANKOVA PHOTO

Brentwood’s grand total share — with other expected costs — is proposed to be between $4.5 million to $5 million.

With the project as part of Brentwood’s budget talks for the past four years, city officials have been setting money aside with $4.1 million already reserved in the Capital Project Fund.

At this time, staff is projecting there will again be sufficient excess revenue in fiscal year 2017 for the project’s remaining cost as part of a 2017 year-end budget amendment, Bednar said.

Beyond the one-time purchase and implementation cost of the system, Brentwood will begin incurring annual maintenance costs in 2019, totaling approximately $165,000.

The city will provide the money to the authority as needed to make payments to Motorola so “we won’t need all the $4.1 million between now and the end of June,” Bednar said.

Unknowns possible but unlikely

Proposed to be operational by the summer of 2018, the new 700/800 MHz Williamson County radio system will connect to its Davidson County counterpart, creating the Middle Tennessee Regional Radio System. The systems in the two counties will serve as backups for each other. The new system will provide seamless roaming and improve interoperability between all participating entities. Future plans include potentially connecting to the Tennessee Valley Authority and to the state’s 800 MHz radio systems, according to the guidelines.

Construction includes adding five tower sites in Brentwood, Nolensville, the Grassland area, the Leipers Fork area and the county landfill. Costs also involve purchasing roughly 250 portable and mobile radios and some expenses to the Brentwood dispatch center. The three entities will share operating and back-up costs.

A cost still under negotiation is for a tower just outside of Nolensville that under the contract is the county’s responsibility.

“We need that tower to cover part of east Brentwood,” Bednar said. “We’re in the midst of negotiating between us and the county as to our exact share.”

With this big of a project that is “incredibly technical in nature,” Bednar said, potential unknown costs are possible.

“We think we’ve got the worst case scenario for the construction of the tower site but if there are some abnormal soils, we can potentially have expense there,” Bednar said. “Again, we don’t think that’s an issue for us here in Brentwood given it’s an existing site that we’ve recently put another tower on.”

Brentwood Mayor Regina Smithson said she really appreciates “the hard work” thus far.

“It will be so advantageous to all the communities that are involved,” Smithson said.

By the numbers:

Regional public safety radio system

  • Total — $22.5 million
  • Williamson County — $14 million
  • Brentwood — $4.5 million to $5 million
  • Franklin — $4.5 million

Learn more about the project on Brentwood City Commission’s Nov. 14 agenda under Resolution 2016-81 available HERE (http://cobaq.org/default.htm)

Reach Dessislava Yankova at 865.384.1973. Follow her on twitter @desspor.

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