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Council to vote on emergency radio upgrades

BEAUFORT -- Purchasing more than $8 million in new digital radio equipment will minimize disruption of the county's emergency management system during peak hurricane season next year, the head of Beaufort County Emergency Management said.

After winning the recommendation of the county's finance committee last week, William Winn, director of Beaufort County Emergency Management, on Monday will pitch an $8.19-million contract to the Beaufort County Council to upgrade the county's 20-year-old analog radio system with new digital equipment.

"We're just looking to replace the infrastructure that we have now," Winn said. "The system we have is old, they're not making parts for it anymore and the maintenance support is running out on it."

The equipment currently used by Beaufort County Dispatch, which handles all 911 calls in the Beaufort area, was purchased in 1989 and installed in 1990, according to the county. The maintenance support on the existing equipment expires

Sept. 30, 2009.

If the contract is approved by the County Council, Winn said he hopes to have all purchase orders issued by the end of November and installation completed by January 2010, a schedule that allows for "minimum radio changes" during the peak months of hurricane season in August and

September.

"We feel like this is the best possible time frame to do this," he said.

Hurricane season runs from June 1 through Oct. 31.

"We were able to knock about $1 million off the cost by identifying what we could keep and what needed to be replaced," Winn said, adding that the initial cost of replacing the equipment was between $9.3 million and $9.6 million.

The new system is expected to last 10 to 15 years, according to the county.

The overhaul of the county's radio infrastructure coincides with the ongoing replacement of mobile and portable radios, such as those used by Beaufort County Sheriff's deputies.

"Our field people have also been receiving new radios, and we have aboutto 2,000 of those still to give out, so we've been at this for over a year," Winn said.

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