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Dennis Ward, senior project manager with TUSA Consulting Services, provides an update on the county’s new 800 MHz radio system during the County Commission’s Wednesday, May 26, study session. Ward told county commissioners the emergency radio system should be fully operational in early July, about two weeks ahead of the original timetable.

Despite project delays, the county’s new 800 MHz radio system from Motorola should be fully operational in early July — about two weeks ahead of schedule.

Dennis Ward, senior project manager with TUSA Consulting Services which spearheaded the project, told county commissioners at their Wednesday, May 26, study session that the 800 MHz system’s final cost came in $11,000 over the original budget.

Ward attributed the overage to construction of a 250-foot communications tower near the Wildwood Outdoor Education Center in southern Miami County that wasn’t part of the original design. The tower had to be constructed because the desired location for the communications equipment was on an existing tower that was no longer viable.

Despite creating another delay in the project, construction of the Wildwood tower required tapping into the project’s contingency fund, Ward said.

“We’re only $11,000 over budget and that’s mostly because we built a new site,” Ward said. “Otherwise, we would have been under budget.

“At the end of the day, the numbers are what they are, but I’m proud we didn’t have to come back and ask for more money,” he said.

The final cost of the project came in at $8,358,763.99, which was $11,360.74 over the original budget of $8,347,403.25.

Commissioners agreed the overage was minimal on a countywide project of this scope.

“That’s not bad for an $8 million project,” Commissioner Tyler Vaughan said.

Commissioners voted in late October 2019 to purchase an 800 MHz radio system from Motorola to replace a dysfunctional VHF radio system that has caused nothing but headaches for dispatchers and first responders across the county.

Once completed, the 800 MHz radio system will be used by first responders with all the agencies in the county.

Ward reported May 26 all site construction is complete, and the tower sites at Paola, Louisburg and Harmony Road (near Hillsdale Lake) are on the air broadcasting.

“Microwave dishes at Osawatomie and Wildwood (towers) are presently being installed this week, which is going to set it up for the entire system to be tested in June,” Ward said of the five-tower system.

The tests will include assessing the system’s countywide coverage. Motorola is under contract to guarantee 95 percent coverage throughout the county.

“We’ll have first responders driving around the county on every single road doing the ‘can you hear me now test,’” Ward said.

Ward provided an anecdote about one of the many delays caused by the pandemic.

“We had a microwave team that was supposed to come out, and they got Covid and were stuck in their hotel for two weeks,” Ward said.

He said despite delays, the cut-over from the old VHS system to the new 800 MHz system should occur ahead of the contractual July 23 completion date.

Commission Chair Rob Roberts commended Ward and TUSA for the job they have done to guide this project, overcoming numerous obstacles in the process — including the pandemic, changes in the system design to accommodate the new Wildwood tower and some site-lease issues.

Ward attributed the ability to finish ahead of schedule to the cooperation and assistance from all the parties involved in the project.

“We’re currently scheduled to cut-over after the Fourth of July,” said Ward, who is a Paola resident. “We’re running two weeks ahead of schedule, which I think is an awesome success story for Miami County.”

News Editor Doug Carder can be reached at (913) 294-2311 or doug.carder@miconews.com.

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