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Get in tune with Caroline public safety system details

A new public safety communications system in Caroline County will nearly double the coverage area of the current system.

Currently, vehicle radios cover about 82 percent of the county, and portable radios cover 42 percent. With the new system, vehicle radios will cover about 95 percent of Caroline and portable radios will work in 92.5 percent, County Administrator Charles Culley said.

The Caroline Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a contract Tuesday night to buy a new public safety communications system from Motorola. A contract is expected to be signed soon; officials say it will then take about 19 months to get the new system operating.

The base price is $6.2 million. That includes equipment and training, but not extended maintenance and debt-service payments.

Culley said the county is looking at financing options, which the board will discuss at its June 11 meeting.

There is no maintenance charge for the first three years. Starting in year four, the county will pay $181,000 a year for upkeep, with the cost expected to increase about 3 percent per year, he said.

The county pays about $65,000 a year to maintain the current system.

The new system will have six towers—four in Caroline (near Bowling Green and in Port Royal, Corbin and Sparta) and two in Hanover County (Doswell and Beaverdam). Culley said the county is in negotiations with Hanover officials.

All the equipment Caroline has now must be replaced because the system is moving from VHF to 700 megahertz. That will include 519 new radios—277 mobile units for buses and other county vehicles and 242 portable units for Sheriff’s Office vehicles and vehicles for the fire and rescue and public works departments.

The county will also purchase computers, servers, antennas and base station radios.

“It’s basically a big computer system. Radios are different than they used to be,” Culley said.

Updates will be available every year, but the county will probably do them every four or five years, he said.

Robyn Sidersky 540/374-5413