BOC, Authority to Reply to Tax Notes for New Radio System Information

Two meetings were scheduled for February 10th to approve up to $ 21 million borrowing for a new emergency radio and communications system in Jackson County.

The Jackson County Board of Commissioners convened a meeting on February 10th at 6:30 pm to approve an intergovernmental agreement with the Jefferson Public Building Authority to fund the system upgrade. The agency should also meet on February 10 at 6:15 p.m. to approve the Revenue Bonds.

The BOC voted on December 21 to approve a communications systems and services contract with Motorola Solutions, Inc. to upgrade the radio system for the public safety of the county.

These upgrades come at a hefty $ 21 million total and $ 12.3 million in maintenance and support for Years 4-15.

Project 25 Public Safety Trunked Radio is expected to serve the county for at least 15 years and provide more reliable coverage than the current system.

District Manager Kevin Poe said it would take two years for the new system to be expanded and operational.

BACKGROUND

The county previously hired TUSA Consulting Services to investigate the county’s radio system requirements.

In a presentation to the board last year, TUSA identified a number of issues with the county’s current system:

• The county’s current system is reaching the end of its life cycle and needs to be replaced soon. The current system is also outdated compared to other systems currently available.

• The current system has inadequate radio coverage in some areas of the county, including some spots along I-85 and around the fast growing Braselton area. This is particularly true of the district’s portable radios, the report said.

• The current system cannot simply speak to the surrounding counties or government emergency agencies as it is not compatible with other municipalities in the region. TUSA said, although Braselton covers four counties, “there is almost no communication with neighbors.” Counties of Gwinnett, Hall, Barrow, and Athens-Clarke all have modern 800 MHz P25 systems, while Banks and Madison use proprietary systems, none of which are compatible with Jackson County’s existing system.

• Current county radios are designed for commercial markets, not public safety agencies that need more durable and rugged equipment.

• Many of the county’s nine communication link locations are missing. Most have outdated cooling and backup power systems and many are too small to accommodate a modern system. Some of the sites had not been well maintained by the county. “Almost all of the existing buildings and the buildings in which they are located cannot support the space needed for a modern public safety radio system without significant cost …” the report says.

The district’s radio network includes all public safety authorities and public schools.

TUSA consulted with county staff, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, Jackson County Correctional Institute, city police, volunteer fire departments, and the project’s school systems.

The county is also connected to Hall County’s main switch.

The county’s stake will come in at just over $ 19 million with the remainder coming from the various other public safety and school systems.

Poe suggested using the proceeds from SPLOST VI (along with a handful of CARES Act funds) to fund debt servicing through 2026. From 2027 to 2031, funds could come from the General Fund or a future SPLOST.

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