Steamboat Springs When Routt County's microwave radio system was installed in 1983, county commissioners were told that it should be replaced in 10 years.
The same system is still in use today, but county officials have approved a replacement.
The county commission approved a $1.19 million project Tuesday to replace the aging towers and radio equipment.
"This is an effort to totally revamp the old system with a system that is substantially newer and more state-of-the-art," County Commissioner Dan Ellison said.
The county has set aside money from its 911 telephone surcharge and property taxes for several years to cover the project's expenses, Routt County Manager Tom Sullivan said.
The cost of the project will deplete much of the fund, but commissioners are confident it will be replaced in time to make future improvements on the system.
"The cushion is gone but we still have about $200,000 left in the fund balance," County Commissioner Doug Monger said.
About $197,000 was saved because money previously anticipated for connections to Yampa Valley Regional Airport and Steamboat Springs Public Safety Facility, as well as video to the courthouse, was not needed.
Commissioners awarded one contract for new radio equipment to Harris Corporation and one contract to EsTex Tower to replace towers at Oak Creek and Hayden, complete with mounted antennas and the installation of cables.
"What we have here is a package that makes sense," Monger said.
Chuck Vale, director of county emergency services, served as project manager for three years.
Routt County has never paid money to build its own towers. Antennas have instead been installed on old television towers and U.S. Forest Service towers.
The county must pay a monthly lease on those towers so ownership of the new towers will benefit the county, Vale said. The new microwave radio system will perform the same role as fiber optic cable placed below ground, Vale said. Fiber optic cable is not feasible at mountain heights, he added.
"They're so similar," Vale said. "One sends the information from point to point below ground, while a microwave radio signal moves information through the air. You can't see either of them."