The city of Fayetteville is planning a $4.1 million upgrade to its radio equipment system to help emergency personnel communicate better in the field.
The City Council voted 10-0 on Monday night to approve the plan, which would spend $4.1 million from the city’s capital reserves over the next year installing new equipment on three communications towers and replacing other radio equipment.
City Manager Ted Voorhees said the city’s public safety 800 megahertz radio system will become obsolete by the end of 2015, when Motorola will no longer service it. He said the city has been working to find a new system since the mid-2000s. The city has grown in territory and population over the past decade, creating “dead spots” that don’t allow police officers to talk to dispatch in an emergency.
“We are hoping to fix that with this upgrade,” Voorhees said.
The city began using a version of 800 megahertz for its public safety radio system in the late 1990s.
During a dinner meeting Monday, some councilmen had questions about the upgraded plan, which is different from the radio system used by the state Highway Patrol and the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office. That system is referred to as VIPER, which stands for Voice Interoperability Plan for Emergency Responders.
Assistant Police Chief Brad Chandler said the recommended upgrade, which will rely on new Motorola equipment, would allow city police officers and firefighters to continue to communicate with the Highway Patrol and Sheriff’s Office. He said Sheriff Moose Butler decided several years ago to stick with VIPER, which Chandler said has limitations over the city’s intended upgraded system.
Councilman Chalmers McDougald had a comment for Police Chief Harold Medlock about the upgrade.
“What I want to hear you say is it is a crime-fighting tool,” McDougald said.
“It is absolutely a crime-fighting tool – and officer safety,” Medlock said.
Mayor Nat Robertson looked at the police chief and asked him, “Are you saying this is what you need?”
The chief said, “Yes, sir.”
According to the plan, the city would have access to the city of Durham’s central hardware for the same radio system, which Voorhees oversaw its development when he was the deputy city manager there. Fayetteville would still use its own radios tower equipment for the new system. He said several agencies joined Durham’s system after it was built, and that local agencies in Cumberland County could chose to join Fayetteville’s upgraded system in the future.
The city would pay Durham about $200,000 a year for 10 years to use its central hardware, which is like a computer network server. The agreement with Durham is tentative. If it’s not approved by Durham officials, Voorhees said, Fayetteville would have to buy its own central hardware for $1.7 million, which would be in addition to the $4.1 million upgrade.
The council witnessed Councilman Bill Crisp take the oath of office while District Court Judge Tal Baggett administered.
In other business, the council:
Unanimously voted to award two contracts, totaling about $2 million, to extend the Cape Fear River Trail east of Ramsey Street and Freedom Trail in the downtown. Both projects are expected to be completed by next summer;
Voted 9-1, with Ted Mohn against, to adopt a plan to manage and take inventory of trees in parks and on city rights of ways at a cost of $32,960. Of that amount, $15,000 is coming from a state grant, and the city is contributing $5,500 in cash and the rest with in-kind city man-hours;
Voted 9-1, with Mohn against, to approve a special-use permit allowing the construction of a Family Dollar at the corner of Cliffdale and Hoke Loop roads;
Voted 8-2, with Jim Arp and Bobby Hurst opposed, to deny a conditional rezoning request that would have allowed the owners of OK Carz, a car lot business at Raeford Road along Little Drive, to expand its storage space to adjoining property behind their businesses. Neighbors opposed the rezoning;
Unanimously accepted a report on the city receiving a good, or “clean” audit with no “material weaknesses.”
Staff writer Andrew Barksdale can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 486-3565.