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Commissioners: Capital lease to fund new radio system

Staff Writer
Brownwood Bulletin
Members of the Brown County Commissioners Court as well as County Attorney Shane Britton, County Clerk Sharon Ferguson and County Auditor Jennifer Robison are pictured at the commissioners court meeting Monday.

Brown County Commissioners unanimously voted Monday to finance the county’s portion of a new radio system for first responders and the dispatch center through a capital lease, capped at $2.3 million.

The county and municipalities in the county are sharing the cost of an upgrade to a 700 megahertz system with a total cost of more than $4 million.

County and city officials began planning for a radio system upgrade more than a year ago.

The capital lease will provide funding for elements of the new system including more than 500 radios — portable and mobile — and leasing space on three existing towers.

The county’s portion of the cost of the equipment and cell tower space is just under $2.2 million, Brown County Judge Paul Lilly said at the commissioners court meeting.

The new radio system will be based on a proposal submitted by the Lower Colorado River Authority.

At the Aug. 24 commissioners court meeting, Early Fire Chief Chad Hill asked commissioners to buy new portable and mobile radios to improve firefighters’ ability to communicate — a “huge safety factor,” Hill said.

The current communications system the volunteer fire departments operate gives about 60 percent coverage of the county, and the new radios would increase that coverage to 99.3 percent, Hill said.

He said the new radios would be part of a proposed 700 megahertz radio and dispatch system to be shared by the county and the cities of Brownwood, Early and Bangs.

Hill said he knows it’s “a lot of money. To do our job and operate efficiently and safely, it’s what we need.”

Hill said the current VHF (Very High Frequency) system is outdated. The VHF system “gets interference a lot,” Hill said. “So when you’re on scenes, if dispatch keys up on the sheriff’s office, you’re going to miss valuable information. If you have a mayday situation going on in a house, you’ve probably just missed that.

“The coverage is not there. It’s outdated.”