SNOW HILL – The Worcester County Commissioners are following the installation progress of the county’s new radio system closely after learning of interference issues being experienced by local emergency responders.
“Hopefully it’s all going to work out in the end,” Commissioner Jim Bunting said. “We spent a lot of money on the system.”
The Worcester County Commissioners agreed in 2015 to spend $5,075,000 with Harris Corporation in 2015 for a 800 MHZ P25 radio system for emergency services personnel. At the time, Worcester County Emergency Services Director Fred Webster said the county’s old system was at the end of its useful life. County officials agreed to hire Harris Corporation in August of 2015 and expected to have the new system installed and functioning within 18 months.
Various issues arose, however, and while the system is now in place the county has hired a consultant to address problems that have been experienced by emergency services personnel using the new radios. Initially interference and garbled transmissions were noted.
“One issue, reported as a distorted transmission in the area of US 50 and MD 610, is being investigated by Harris staff,” Webster wrote in a recent report to the commissioners. “The remaining two issues involve a unit having to push their ‘push to talk’ button twice.”
Commissioner Chip Bertino said that while the issues might appear minor, he’s concerned about anything that impacts the county’s first responders.
“They’re our first line of defense,” he said. “We have to make sure they have everything they need.”
He said he wasn’t sure there was anything the county could have done differently to get the new radio system up and running faster.
“I think it was a number of little things,” Bertino said. “We had some glitches that had to be worked out. Anytime you introduce new technology there are bound to be challenges.”
Nevertheless, the commissioners are watching the progress closely. They had Webster provide an update at their last meeting and Bertino said he would be providing another update at Tuesday’s meeting of the commissioners.
Bunting said he wasn’t as concerned with the radio system’s performance as some commissioners because he thought that it was being judged prematurely. He pointed out that the system had been activated before the county’s final tower site in Mystic Harbour had been completed. That tower site was set to be finished this week. Bunting agreed however that it was important for first responders to have reliable equipment.
“There’s only been a handful of problems but I guess those could turn into major problems with a fire,” Bunting said. “We should err on the side of safety.”
Bertino said that once the final tower was online the system would be fully tested. Testing is currently scheduled for the first week of September.