THOMASVILLE —Work continues on a communications project that will impact local agencies, officials said.

Don Atkinson, assistant city manager for utilities, said Monday a 800 MHz radio system project taken on by the City of Thomasville is tentatively scheduled for a first quarter 2009 completion date.

The Thomasville City Council approved the purchase of the Motorola system for $3.237 million on June 9. The contract for the system delivery was signed in mid-July.

“A number of our radio systems here in the community are analog systems working on VHF and UHF frequency ranges, and some users are on the existing analog 800 MHz system,” Atkinson said. “The majority of agencies in Thomasville-Thomas County and the surrounding smaller cities have no interoperability because their radio frequencies are not compatible. When they have to coordinate very closely with each other to provide services to the public — like during a weather event — they have difficulty or it has been impossible for them to communicate with one another.”

The project, Atkinson said, is upgrading and expanding a radio system to provide a digital service to put all agencies on one system and expand the coverage area by implementing or incorporating a second tower site in the county.

Mark Tabor, technical services superintendent, said the type of unified radio system the city is implementing has been proven to work in emergencies, such as 2007’s California wildfires because the system was state-wide.

The project was included in the 2006 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax ballot, which passed July 18, 2006, with a estimated price tag of $2.75 million.

The total projected cost to date is approximately $3.5 million, Atkinson said. The City of Thomasville will make up the shortfall.

Atkinson said the city took on this project because it has a large coverage area and already has a technical services department in place that can support and manage such a system.

Tabor said the city began gathering information for the project in late 2006 and worked throughout 2007 with a consultant to finalize details for the subscribers, usage and etc.

Atkinson said the system will also address regional interoperability. The city selected Albany to connect to for its “master switch,” he said, which will provide the ability to have more seamless communications locally and throughout Area Two (Thomas County is a part of with approximately 20 other counties) of the All Hazards Council under the Department of Homeland Security.

“It is an objective of the council to improve communications and I know other communities in our region are evaluating regional connectivity,” Atkinson said.

An interconnection agreement has been approved by Thomasville and Albany, Tabor said.

The radio system includes all the electronics for the master site (Jail-Justice Center), Mary Owens Road tower site in Coolidge (lease agreement for space was signed July 1 with Crown Castle Tower) and all subscriber units (710), plus necessary electronics to interface at the Albany master site.

Agencies that will receive units include Thomasville Fire Rescue, Thomasville Utilities, Thomas County Sheriff’s Office, Thomas County Public Works and the county’s smaller municipalities.

Patrick Little, telecom operations supervisor for CNS, said the system will help keep the area up-to-date in the communications arena.

“We’re trying to stay ahead of the game, be ahead of the curve,” he said.

All agencies will pay a to-be-determined user fee, which will cover expenses (maintenance, agreements, contracts, and operations).

“I’m excited about this,” Atkinson said. “I think it will be a great system.”

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