The Fayette Citizen-News Page

Wednesday, June 27, 2001

Private companies interested in Fayette/PTC public safety frequencies could fund new radio system


Two private communications companies interested in Fayette County and Peachtree City's public safety frequencies may be the link to a brand-new radio system at little or no cost to local taxpayers.

A new system could improve communications between local public safety workers, thus improving their ability to serve local residents.

Cheryl Rogers, director of the Fayette County 911 Communication Center, said Nextel and Southern Company have bought the rights to the Fayette and Peachtree City frequencies from the Federal Communications Commission. While this doesn't force Fayette or Peachtree City to give up the frequencies, it does create an interesting situation.

If the companies choose to, they can negotiate with local authorities for the frequencies, Rogers explained.

"Forest Park was contacted recently and offered a very nice package," Rogers said. She added that the two companies own the same frequencies in areas next to Fayette County, although Fayette should have a protected radius of 70 miles.

Just in case an acceptable offer is proposed, Fayette has already reserved a new set of frequencies which will be in the "protected" spectrum designated for public safety agencies, Rogers said. When Fayette and Peachtree City got their new frequencies almost 10 years ago, they were placed in a commercial spectrum, lumping their frequencies in with those used for cab companies, trucking operators and other similar businesses.

Moving up to the 821 mhz range will help improve the system by blocking out interference that currently bombards the radio but doesn't affect transmissions, Rogers said. The catch is that new FCC regulations will require several more antennas to be used so Fayette's radios don't transmit more than five miles outside the county line, she added.

More antennas would also improve communications with mobile radio units worn by public safety employees so they don't have to use their vehicles' radios, Rogers said. Fayette's natural terrain creates a few "dead spots" where transmissions have a lot of static, she said.

A new county radio system would also allow for seamless communications with Peachtree City's radio system, whereas now it takes a few extra steps to do so, Rogers said.

Officials plan to hire a consultant to study which radio system should be selected in the upgrade, Rogers said. One of the many factors to be considered is whether the county should build its own towers for the new antennas or lease space on existing towers, she added.

"The biggest thing is making sure we make the most cost-effective choices," Rogers said. "... We provide a high-quality service but we want to make sure that we get the best system we can for the money."

About $100,000 has been set aside in the county budget to pay for the consultant, although Rogers said she wasn't sure that much would be needed after the consultant's work is finished. There are plenty of companies out there to choose from, she said.

Although she wants the most bang for the taxpayer's bucks, Rogers is also cautious about getting caught up in too much technology.

"I don't want to push the envelope and end up with a system that won't work," she said.

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