New radios for Marion fire, police

New radios for Marion fire, police

Equipment will be purchased with Act 833, bond money

Marion is ordering 80 new radios for its police and fire departments , but won’t have to pay for them until a new tower is installed.

The City Council agreed to a recommendation by the police and fire commission to spend $158,000 for 41 radios for the police department and $148,000 for 41 radios for the fire department from Motorola.

“It started off at $250,000 roughly,” said Councilman Kelly O’Neal, who chairs the police and fire commission. The committee was okay with the least expensive option. It was a tradein. It’s essentially a discount. We get to keep the radios we have.”

O’Neal said the Fire Department will use a part of its ACT 833 money to pay for the radio with the remainder coming from bond money which was approved by voters in 2017. The police department will pay for its radios using all bond money.

“It was a little more than originally estimated,” O’Neal said of the police radios. “But there is more money in the bond account.”

The city will not actually have to pay for the radios until a new tower is erected, which could take up to six months.

Fire Chief Woody Wheeless said they ask permission to use the Arkansas Wireless Information Network (AWIN) tower in Shell Lake but were told that the tower can’t accommodate all those new radios. Motorola has over 100 AWIN towers in Arkansas which get better reception and allow law enforcement and fire departments to communicate with over 900 local, state, and federal agencies who are all on AWIN.

“We’re asking permission from AWIN to use that tower temporarily until our tower is up and then transfer us over to our system,” Wheeless said. “They are equipped for like 82 units to be put on that system temporarily until our system is up.”

Wheeless said they originally asked to add 120 units to the tower but were turned down, so they are asking again for the 80 portables.

“They’ve already turned us down on out first request,” Wheeless said. “So we’ve backed up and we said just portables at this time to try and drop that number down. We would overload the system if we put all those units on there.”

Wheeless said he was told by Motorola that it could take about six months to get the tower, but expects it will happen a lot sooner.

“Rogers signed an agreement with them in December last year,” Wheeless said. “They paid for 500 radios and already have 500 right now. They won’t be on the system until October. So they’ve had those radios for nine months. But we don’t have infrastructure issues here in our county like they do in some areas of the state because we already have a tower.

And it’s flat land here. In Fayetteville they are having to put up seven to nine towers to make that area work.

One will make us work.”

Mayor Frank Fogleman said they will go ahead and order the radios now. However, they will not be charged until the system goes live.

“There is no transfer of money until we can use them,” Fogleman said. “If they put 13 handhelds on the system, we’re okay paying for 13 units. If they put 52 between police and fire, we’ll pay for 52 because we can utilize them.

Hopefully this will motivate Motorola to install the antenna shorter than that six month time to get it done.”

Crittenden County in June purchased the same Motorola AWIN capable radios for the sheriff’s office.

“We’ve had a lot of discussion back and forth with Motorola making sure that we’re getting what our departments are going to need,” Wheeless said.

“I’ve seen them,” added Councilman Don Hanks.

“It’s pretty impressive.”

By Mark Randall