Lebanon City Council will look at a major upgrade to the city’s communication systems Tuesday.
“The radio system has been a challenge for some time,” said Lebanon police Chief Scott Bowen.
He explained that with the terrain within Wilson County, emergency responders have several areas within the county where departments’ current radios don’t work.
“For us, [the radios] are our lifeline,” said Bowen.
He said officers can’t communicate with each other or with dispatch when they’re in one of the dead spots.
The issue is not limited to the police department, said Bowen.
The fire department, public works and public safety have reported the same issues, according to Bowen and Mayor Philip Craighead.
Additionally, the city’s different departments can’t communicate with one another using the existing radio system, which creates issues during emergencies requiring multi-department responses.
Although the issue isn’t a new one, it’s reached a new urgency in recent months.
“We’re looking at trying to rectify that problem and trying to move it on as quickly as possible,” said Craighead.
A recently enacted federal law changed the allowed specifications for the departments’ communications frequencies, narrowing the available bandwidth.
“We were told by the radio company that we were probably going to lose 15-20 percent of our coverage because of that,” said Bowen.
The departments tried different mechanisms to compensate to try to resolve the issue.
“Honestly, it just did not work,” said Bowen.
Additionally, one of the key components in the radio system was damaged in recent storms. The cost to replace it would be between $7,500 and $10,000.
Instead of investing thousands of dollars in a piece of equipment that would need to be replaced to fix the issue with dead spots, officials believe it’s simply time to fix the problem.
The solution, according to Bowen, includes new repeaters and new radios using a different technology than the current system uses.
“[Using the proposed system], we tested the dead spots that we were fully aware of, and we had no issues,” said Bowen.
He said the company selling the system is also offering a rebate credit that will no longer be offered in April.
“Time is of the essence,” said Bowen.
Given that, council during its Tuesday meeting is due to consider an emergency line item transfer of more than $436,000 to buy radios and related equipment and dispatch equipment for the upgrade.
Council will also meet for a work session at 5 p.m. Tuesday to further discuss the request.
“We just wanted to give the opportunity to council to understand the needs and the concerns and the urgency of it,” said Craighead.