PAOLA — A Miami County Sheriff’s deputy found himself on a communications island in the middle of the night in June while responding to a report of suspicious vehicles at the intersection of 287th Street and Pleasant Valley Road.
“The deputy started yelling, ‘Get back in the vehicle’ and radio was then cut off,” 911 dispatch center Communications Supervisor Allison Ray wrote in a follow-up report. “Dispatch had units upgrade to assist and dispatch tried to check on units multiple times with no answer.”
Another deputy who was just two miles away also could not reach him by radio.
“Deputies and dispatch contacted each other via phone because radio communication was terrible,” Ray wrote in her report.
Seeking to eliminate communication failures like this in the future, Miami County commissioners in 2019 purchased an $8.5 million 800 megahertz radio system from Motorola to replace the county’s outdated and frequently unreliable VHF system.
Commissioners approved the sale of $6 million in general obligation bonds Dec. 11 to help pay for the 800 MHz system. That action culminated a process that began one year ago when commissioners voted 5-0 Dec. 19, 2018, to hire Tusa Consulting Services for $82,200 to develop a radio communications solution that would allow all first responders in the county to communicate with each other.
The county’s timeline was hastened by the need to declare a state of emergency Aug. 14.
After hearing the plight of the sheriff’s deputy — and about dire communication problems in Louisburg — during an Aug. 14 study session, commissioners declared a state of emergency at their meeting that afternoon in order to seek immediate state assistance.
The emergency declaration said, in part, that under certain conditions, the “county-wide VHF radio system has experienced a complete failure. The failure applies to the City of Louisburg and the rural areas of Miami County which have resulted in no VHF communications.”
Two hours after the county commission declared the emergency a state-owned mobile communications tower called COW (Communication on Wheels) was being hoisted in the parking lot behind the Louisburg EMS/Fire Station.
UMB Bank N.A. was the winning bidder for the Dec. 11 bond sale at 1.77 percent interest. The bank also will pay a premium of $207,346.90 to the county which reduces the total interest expense from $1,012,633.33 to $805,286.43 over the 12-year repayment period of the bonds.
The remaining $2.5 million of the roughly $8.5 million project would be covered by the county through a combination of cash reserves, a state 911 grant and other county resources.