County considers new radio system for fire, EMS

Published 10:44 pm Sunday, September 4, 2016

County commissioners will consider moving forward with a new radio system for fire and EMS at Tuesday night’s regular Board of Commissioners meeting.

The commissioners regular meeting has been rescheduled for Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. because of the Labor Day holiday.

The proposed new radio system comes with a price tag of $1.8 million, according to county Manager Brian Alligood. The proposal comes in response to ongoing issues with fire and EMS communications, primarily with pages and two-way radio coverage. The proposal submitted by Motorola Solutions, Inc. calls for a VHF simulcast system set up at five tower locations.

Four towers currently exist — in Chocowinity, Bath, Bayboro and Ponzer — but a fifth in northwestern Beaufort County will have to be built in order to ensure a 95-percent coverage rate throughout the county, according to the Sept. 6 agenda.

“We’re going to have to build one additional tower on Cherry Run Road. We were hoping we weren’t going to have to do that,” Alligood said. “That drove the cost up a little.”

The proposal also provides solutions to improve in-vehicle and in-building coverage in Beaufort County schools.

Funding for the project could come from several different sources, according to the agenda: a lease/purchase option with Motorola Solutions, Inc.; financing through a local bank; or commissioners would have the option to use existing funds from the county fund balance.

Alligood said the price of the new system is substantial, but justified considering the importance of fire and EMS personnel’s ability to send and receive communications during emergencies.

“You’re talking about spending a lot of money, but you’re also talking about fixing the system,” Alligood said.

Also on Tuesday’s agenda is the second reading of Chocowinity EMS’ ambulance franchise application, approval of which would allow the financially struggling squad to create a new revenue stream by making non-emergent transport calls within the county. According to the agenda, Commissioner Hood Richardson has called for a forensic or management audit of the squad dating back to July 1, 2014.

Washington Parks and Recreation Director Kristi Roberson is slated to request $12,500 from commissioners to support the city-owned Moore Aquatic Center, which also is experiencing financial hardship, and Benjamin Ricks, District II North Carolina Fisheries biologist, will give a presentation about the striped bass population in the Tar-Pamlico river.

The full agenda for Tuesday’s meeting can be found at by selecting “Online Services,” then “Downloads” in the navigation bar.

The meeting will be held at the County Administrative Offices at 121 W. Third St., Washington, and is open to the public.