Purchase of radio towers debated

By Austin R. Eck —

Gillespie County Commissioners met on Monday to hear a report from The Good Samaritan Center, receive an update on the construction of the new jailhouse and to discuss the purchase of new radio dispatch consoles. 

Commissioners approved the purchase of the dispatch consoles, radios and related equipment for the new jail facility when city and county dispatch centers are combined into one center. The new equipment will upgrade the county from its current 900 MHz system to a newer 700 MHz system.

However, there is an issue because the Fredericksburg Volunteer Fire Department is not upgrading its radio equipment systems from VHF to 700 MHz, but the fire department will not be shut out of the new system.

“Any action everybody has taken is always trying to include the fire department’s best interest,” said John Keller, the county’s IT administrator. “This system is universal. It can take whatever we want to throw at it.”

Gillespie County Sheriff Buddy Mills proposed the purchase of a Telecom Module and radio equipment to be installed into radio towers that make the new 700 MHz radio consoles compatible with the fire department’s VHF radios.

“Our current system is at end of life,” Mills said. “It’s going away.”

To give the county 100 percent coverage, two additional towers need to be activated at a cost of $465,647. After factoring other equipment needed for the system to operate, the cost is $618,391.79.

Also, Mills wants to install a Telecom module to the towers in the area that will take the fire department’s VHF signal and transfer them to the dispatch 700 series console and vice versa.

“It actually gives them the ability to have the best of two different worlds,” Mills said.

The court was hesitant to approve the purchase because it was not in the year’s budget, and the funds need to come out of next year’s budget.

“I don’t know that either since we don’t have a budget set for next year yet,” County Judge Mark Stroeher said when asked about the legality of approving the proposal. “I don’t know if that would be prudent.”  

Mills remained adamant that the purchase of the sys-tem was crucial even though it was not in the budget.  

“The urgency here, gentle-men, is great,” Mills said.

Adding to the urgency is the time it takes to set up the system, 90-100 days.

The commission remained concerned to approve the purchase especially without the money.

“If we were to approve this and then we didn’t get funding for some reason, we’re liable for that whole chunk,” Stroeher said.

The fire department upgrading its radio system does not appear to be an option.

VHF is used by many rural fire departments, Keller said.

The purchase of the Telecom Module and radio equipment was tabled so more information could be obtained. 

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