Overhaul of Public Safety Radio System by West Central IL ETSB Looms

By Benjamin Cox on April 23, 2024 at 8:53am

Image Courtesy of Tait Communications.

The Village of South Jacksonville was the first municipality to hear in detail the upcoming changes that are being proposed to overhaul the public safety radio system.

Morgan County Emergency Management Coordinator and West Central Joint Dispatch Director Phil McCarty provided the South Jacksonville Board of Trustees on Thursday night of the breakdown that would upgrade and overhaul the emergency communication systems. The current systems that several of the first responder agencies are on are not compatible, not upgradable to a digital signal, or are nearing their end of life.

Village of South Jacksonville Chief of Police Eric Hansell, who sits on the Emergency Telephone System Board as a representative for the village, says the upgrades are timely: “Part of the reason why this is necessary is because the system that we have has been let go a little bit and not quite maintained the way it should have been. It’s going to be everybody on the same frequency as far as fire, police, and emergency services so that radio systems can be patched together a lot easier. Also, a part of is the foresight of the federal government mandating us all go to a P25-capatable radio system. That’s why we are moving forward with this. The ETSB is kicking in a huge chunk of money toward the project. It’s offsetting the cost for the other agencies. The agencies that are going to probably benefit from this the most right now is the Jacksonville Police Department and the City of Jacksonville and the Village of South Jacksonville. Our system here is an older system than what everyone else is on.”

McCarty told the board that the initial bid from Tait Communication came in at $6.1 million, but through a revised bid and a $1.75 million down payment from the ETSB, the cost for the project would be around $3 million. The new system would be on a 12-year lease and each municipality in the joint dispatch agreement would be responsible for their share based upon the percentage of their current Joint Dispatch services payment. South Jacksonville’s is a little over 11% share of the cost, making their annual payment about $44,000 more on top of their quarterly dispatch payments. The payment for the system would drop off after the 12 year lease agreement.

The Village board will take the agreement under consideration as a possible action item at their next business meeting in May. McCarty says he would like to have the bid executed with Tait by May 14th in order to keep interest rates low.

McCarty also presented the City of Jacksonville with the project last night, saying he would like to get moving on the bid received by Tait because the loan interest to get the project has already gone up by a half percent, putting the loan’s interest at a little under 6%.

The Village is likely to have an action item to accept the agreement at their next business meeting on May 2nd, while the City of Jacksonville is expected to take action along with the Morgan County Commissioners on May 6th.