Dispatch Supervisor Allison Ray works at a station in the dispatch center of the Miami County Sheriff’s Office. Nearly $285,000 in grant money has been awarded to the sheriff’s office to upgrade the center’s dispatch consoles.

PAOLA — The Miami County Sheriff’s Office dispatch center is poised for an equipment upgrade.

The sheriff’s office has learned it will receive a $284,272.80 state grant to purchase four P25 IP based dispatch consoles, according to a news release issued Tuesday, Nov. 12.

“This grant will help offset costs to upgrade the radio communications system within the communications center,” Sheriff Frank Kelly said.

More than $2.75 million in grant money was awarded to the state of Kansas, 911 Coordinating Council, by the National 911 grant program administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the National 911 Program.

The state is using about $1.8 million of the grant money to fund sub-grants to Kansas 911 communications centers, according to the release.

“These sub-grants will allow our Kansas 911 centers to fund upgrades and equipment replacement that could otherwise fall on the shoulders of local property taxpayers,” said Dick Heitschmidt, 911 Coordinating Council chairman.

The dispatch console upgrade is in step with the new 800 megahertz radio system county commissioners voted to purchase Oct. 30 from Motorola to replace a dysfunctional VHF radio system. The cost of the 800 MHz radio system, site development for towers and a $500,000 contingency reserve brings the total to about $8 million for the overall project.

The county intends to use general obligation bonds to finance between $5 million to $6 million of the radio system project. The balance would be paid out of the county’s cash reserves. The total amount to be financed has not yet been determined.

The condition of the VHF system had deteriorated to the point where the County Commission declared a state of emergency Aug. 14 in order to seek immediate assistance from the state.

County commissioners had already discussed plans to move to an 800 MHz system, and commissioned a study by Tusa Consulting Services in December 2018. Miami County Emergency Medical Services and the Paola Fire Department have already made the conversion to 800 MHz.

Motorola will customize the 800 MHz radio system to meet the county’s needs and then build it from scratch, with the goal of staging and shipment by Dec. 18, according to a project report. Full implementation of the system is expected to take 16 to 18 months.

Similar transitions are taking place all across the country as part of a nationwide shift to digital broadcasting, and the need was amplified a few years ago when the Federal Communications Commission mandated narrow banding of the VHF system to make more bandwidth available for other uses.

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