County worries about system

Routt County may connect to statewide communications system

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Routt County commissioners have concerns about connecting to Colorado's new statewide communications system.

They also worry that if Routt County isn't involved in the new system, it could wind up isolated.

For about a decade, Colorado officials have been planning and putting in place an improved communications system. A new system would let different agencies across the state talk to each other more easily. That can be especially important in large-scale emergencies when various agencies respond.

The state has chosen to build a statewide 800 MHz digital system.

The county has "severe" concerns about the 800 MHz system, Commissioner Doug Monger said.

"Not only Routt County, but quite a few counties are concerned about the ability of (the system) to encompass (their) whole county with coverage," Monger said.

With the 800 MHz system, it's harder to send signals through buildings or mountains.

Routt County uses a VHF system, which works well in the area and still would be necessary even if the county went to the 800 MHz system. The county upgraded its system in the late 1990s.

"We're basically tying ourselves into a two-radio system for every car," Monger said.

Because of the different frequencies the two systems use, one can't scan the other, said Faith Mendoza, Routt County communications director. It's similar to TV services -- if you have cable, you're not going to get satellite feed and vice versa.

Mendoza said there are pros and cons to each system.

The 800 MHz is a new technology, she said. Because the state is online with the 800 MHz system, that system provides an instant network to communicate with those agencies that are on the network.

However, the 800 MHz technology is more expensive than the VHF technology the county uses now, she said. In addition to a potential lack of coverage with 800 MHz, that system would require the county to contract with a provider for paging or use the VHF system for paging.

Monger said that because communications technology is evolving constantly, it might not be the best time to change.

But as other agencies change to 800 MHz, Routt County may have to follow. For instance, Moffat County contracts its communications system to the Colorado State Patrol, which is switching to 800 MHz.

Routt County commissioners have signed an agreement with the group that manages the state's system. The agreement lets Routt County join the statewide system if it wants. County officials also will participate in statewide monthly meetings about the system.

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