Non-public safety agencies have been using the system since December.
“So far there have been no issues,” Floyd County Emergency Management Agency Director Scotty Hancock told members of the Rome City and Floyd County commissions and the Cave Spring City Council on Wednesday.
The elected officials are still discussing how to cover the projected $1 million annual maintenance costs. Hancock and Allen Cutts with Tusa Consulting Services gave a presentation to explain how the system operates as a whole.
Cutts said all 10 towers pick up and broadcast all the frequencies in use, so emergency responders inside buildings can receive clear signals. There’s also a microwave network that provides dual connectivity to each site.
“If we happen to have a big storm that goes through two sites, it doesn’t matter. The system is looped,” he said. “You need this in times of trouble. We didn’t build a ‘blue skies’ system.”
It’s a far cry from the overloaded single tower on Mount Alto that’s been hosting the grab bag of UHF and VHF systems used by various local agencies for nearly 50 years.
Hancock compared the jumbled mass of unprotected wires and stacked repeaters in the old Mount Alto shed to the state-of-the-art digital equipment in the new, temperature-controlled shelters.
“It’s just slapped together,” he said. “I don’t know how we talk.”
Dead spots, static and the need for interagency patches through the 911 Center led voters to approve a special purpose, local option sales tax in 2009 to pay for a unified system.
Hancock said tests — which will be repeated in the summer when leaves are on the trees — show voice quality on the hand-held radios hits the industry standard 99 percent of the time outside, and 98 percent of the time inside buildings. Installation of the vehicle radios, which have even stronger signals, will be done in February.
“This is the biggest SPLOST project in the history of the county,” he told the boards. “When you don’t build bricks and mortar that someone can come out and look at, it’s hard to fathom how much we’ve done.”
Rome Mayor Evie McNiece said she expects the City Commission to discuss its financial commitment to the ongoing maintenance program at its Monday meeting. An intergovernmental agreement will be worked out through the boards’ joint services committee.
Wireless providers already are contacting Hancock about leasing space on the towers, which were purposely designed with extra capacity. A consultant is finalizing a pricing formula, but Interim County Manager Gary Burkhalter said the estimated revenue already is factored into the longterm network budget.
Click this link to see a tower comparison and system map: http://assets.radiatemedia.com/sites/274/assets/H6GS_SystemMap.pdf
Click this link to visit an online forum discussion of the new radio system: http://forums.radioreference.com/georgia-radio-discussion-forum/235888-rome-floyd-p25-system.html