Pasco County is replacing dinosaur analog with new age digital.
The county is replacing a 26-year-old, outmoded radio communications system.
New radios, antennas and cell towers will enhance Pasco County’s public safety coverage.
In recent years, the existing system has been plagued with complaints by residents about dropped 911 calls.
Todd Bayley, Pasco County’s chief information officer, stated the obvious to Pasco commissioners in February. “The system is at maximum capacity,” he said. “We have coverage issues currently.”
Commissioners approved a $14.5 million contract with Williams Communications Inc., to add seven new cell tower sites for a total of 10 sites countywide. Existing sites are in New Port Richey, Darby and Dade City. The new sites will enhance public safety coverage particularly in new growth areas of Zephyrhills, Land O’ Lakes and Wesley Chapel.
In addition, the new system will replace old hand-held and portable radios, add antennas to existing sites, and enhance capabilities at the county’s 911 emergency center. The project will roll out over three years, with completion expected in July 2018.
“It’s giving us total 100 percent coverage everywhere in the county,” Bayley said.
The current system relies on three cell tower sites, 2,500 hand-held and portable radios, and 11 dispatch consoles for 911 calls.
The manufacturer’s expiration date for that system is in 2017.
The upgraded system will support public safety agencies including the Pasco Sheriff’s Office, Office of Emergency Management, and Pasco Fire Rescue as well as law enforcement agencies that have merged emergency operations with Pasco. Those include Port Richey, Dade City and New Port Richey.
In addition, the county supports communications on board more than 30 percent of Pasco County School District’s buses. Communications among all county agencies also will be enhanced and expanded.
Funding is from the Penny for Pasco tax money collected annually by the county, with 20 percent set aside for public safety projects.
The new system will be compatible with radio systems used by law enforcement and public safety agencies in surrounding counties.
As an added feature, Bayley said certain public safety and fire rescue officers will be able to download an application to a Smartphone, and with the punch of a button, start talking over the radio system.
“So, they don’t always have to have a radio on their hip,” Bayley said.
As the systems are traded out, the transition should be seamless as the new system is compatible with the existing system, Bayley said.
The county plans to fund the project initially by borrowing from the general reserve funds and then securing a loan to reimburse those funds. The loan closing is expected on March 9.
Published March 2, 2016