New E-911 radio system coming to Habersham

(Habersham County E911/Facebook)

Habersham County’s E-911 dispatchers and first responders can look forward to receiving adequate radio technology in the near future as the county moves forward with the installation of a new radio system.

The Habersham County Commission voted 4-0 at their Monday night commission meeting to purchase and take the next steps in bringing a new E-911 radio system from Communications International, Inc. to the county.

Habersham’s dispatch crews and public safety have been working with an outdated radio system for some time now, with technology issues and equipment that cannot be replaced due to its age. The current radio system also does not cover the entire county– the industry standard is 95 percent coverage or more, and the county’s current system has coverage in the “upper 70’s, lower 80’s” percentage of the county, according to TUSA Consultant Alan Talkington, who has worked with the county through the process of finding the best radio system for the county’s needs and budget.

“We all know we must maintain and update our communications infrastructure. It’s so important,” E-911 Director Lynn Smith said in a press release from the county. “This is not a want. This is an absolute necessity; this is something that’s so important to our public safety that we just cannot overlook it.”

The new system will cover 95 percent of the county.

The system was budgeted for in the 2020 SPLOST, but the final cost of the system ended up exceeding those funds. Even after cutting down the “fluff” that came with the system, which had the system originally priced between $12 and $15 million dollars, the new system’s basics still came in $2.4 million over budget. Thanks to funding from the American Rescue Plan, the county was able to purchase the radio system.

(Hadley Cottingham/Now Habersham)

“We’re lucky that ARP happened however unlucky that situation is,” said Chairman Dustin Mealor. “Otherwise, we’d be having to cancel SPLOST projects just to fund the rest of this [radio upgrade].”

The funding covers upgraded radio technology for Habersham’s fire department, emergency medical services, law enforcement, coroner, roads department and animal control. Municipalities, however, will have to purchase their own upgraded radios; some have budgeted for those upgrades in their SPLOST.

The consulting firm has also worked out a long-term budget for the system with the county that covers everything the system will need.

“[The new radio has] a long span of a system that can be taken for years and years […] to come,” Talkington told the commissioners. “[We’re talking] a fifteen-year budget, not just what’s next year […], we’re looking at long-term.”

A video of the meeting is available on the county’s website here.

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