NEWTON GROVE — The Newton Grove Police Department is in a dilemma. The in-car radios are no longer banded to send and receive messages with other law enforcement agencies, EMS and fire departments. This is related to the federal mandate for the frequency for these agencies to move to a broader banded frequency.
With that dilemma in mind, the town’s police chief urged the town’s Board of Commissioners to help equip his department with new ones.
“We are in dire straights. Currently the county has already transferred to the new system and we have to have a patch so we can communicate with our outdated equipment,” expressed Newton Grove police Chief Frankie Harrell. “The problem, as it now stands, is that the patch creates interference for the entire system and there are times when they have to turn off the patch and we are left without in-car communication and have to use the two walkie talkies that are on the new system.”
According to Harrell, the federal government has mandated that all police, emergency and fire departments switch to an 800 MHz frequency system by Jan. 1, 2013. Many of the state’s systems have already transferred to the new frequency. The chief stated that Newton Grove was the last one in the county to do so.
W.C. Polson was present to speak to commissioners regarding purchasing new radios for the cars. In his proposal, which would be for three in-car radios and two additional walkie talkies, the cost would be $11,000.
“If someone else were to offer you this equipment you can expect to pay much more. Fortunately for me, I was able to purchase a number of these radios from a department that had too many and I got them for a much reduced price. They are new and come with a one year warranty,” said Polson.
Harrell reported that he had purchased equipment, such as the in-car computers, from Polson, who is a sheriff’s department employee in South Carolina, in the past and found him to have the best price.
“Bill (Polson) is the person I got the car computers from and his prices were far better than any other I could find at that time. I have researched the cost for the radios and have found his prices a lot lower than even state contract prices are,” cited the chief.
Police Commissioner Alan Herring asked if the old radios were suitable or could be refitted to be used by the department. Polson shared that only the one radio currently used in the chief’s car could be re-banded ,but it would only be a short term fix, and the other two radios in use are too old for that same fix.
Although the department currently has two hand-held walkie talkies that were given to the town by the county from a grant it received, the chief explained the need for at least two additional units.
“We need additional hand held units when we have any activities such as parades or emergency situations when we are outside the cars and need to communicate with each other. It would also be nice to have a spare in case one of the units goes down or during and event such as the parade or emergency situation we could leave one here at town hall so we could communicate with the town officers and commissioners if needed,” explained Harrell.
Herring stated, “I don’t see that we have much choice on whether to purchase the new equipment and I do not feel we should go to the expense to upgrade the one radio when it will only be a short term fix.”
Commissioner Steve Jackson requested 48 hours to study the proposal; Polson agreed to those conditions before a decision would be made on the purchase.
The price quoted by Polson does not include installation. Harrell estimated the work would cost between $300 and $500 total for the three cars.