ENGLEWOOD — To prepare for the impending county overhaul of public safety communications system that will eventually be owned and operated by the state as the Multi-Agency Radio Communications System (MARCS), city council passed a resolution to become a member of the Montgomery County Regional Radio Council.
During the seven year transition, a temporary board, or Council of Governments (COG), is being established to manage the upgrade. The county has requested the Miami Valley Communications Council (MVCC) to coordinate the process separate from the county’s direct involvement. More than 30 cities, villages and townships must agree to the proposal.
The COG should be in place sometime this fall with each jurisdiction asked to appoint one delegate and one alternate to the COG.
There are currently eight dispatch centers in operation in the county, but they all eventually must filter through Montgomery County’s dispatch center because the county has the antennas that transmit signals through the airwaves.
“The county has decided that they want to do a rather expensive upgrade, which at last estimate was somewhere around $14 million to switch from analog to digital,” said City Manager Eric Smith. “It’s a good idea. It improves communications and modernizes the whole system. In order to accomplish that, the other jurisdictions, the other dispatch centers have to upgrade to make sure they are compatible with the county.”
The county, along with the cooperation of the other participating jurisdictions has agreed to actually turn the entire radio system over to the state of Ohio, which runs the MARCS system.
The state is going to fund the cost of the conversion up front. The other half still must be financed over seven to nine years. At the end of that time period the other half of the radio system will become owned by the state, which will assume full responsibility of the system.
“What the county has done, which I believe was designed to sidestep some political issues, was to ask the Miami Valley Communications Council to administer the eight year time period that it is going to take to get their half of the system in place in order to be able to turn it over to the state at the end of that time period,” Smith said.
Englewood is an associate member of the MVCC, which is comprised of eight jurisdictions located in the southern Miami Valley.
The MVCC has decided, along with the county, that a COG would work best to administer the transition.
The COG would consist of all 30 jurisdictions in Montgomery County, which would be a separate legislative group that has nothing to do with the county or any other entity.
“The MVCC has asked us to become a part of that, one of 30, to get this radio communications system up to date, up to speed and get it off the ground,” Smith said.
He noted that the target date to get the system upgraded is sometime in 2016.
All of the dispatch centers currently owned and operated by a jurisdiction would still be owned by each jurisdiction. The state would own the radio system itself, the radio frequencies, the antennas and infrastructure necessary to make the network operable.
“We don’t lose our independence,” Smith added. “The only way we would lose independence is if we didn’t make this happen and the county converts to a digital system and we still remained on analog, we would have no communications with the county. So we really don’t have a lot of choice.”