The Routt County Board of Commissioners decided Tuesday to move forward with plans to use a state grant to help expand the county's communications system.
Commissioners Nancy Stahoviak and Dan Ellison agreed the board should sign an agreement to use an $870,645 grant from the Department of Local Affairs to build into the state's 800 megahertz communications system. Commissioners made the motion to sign the agreement in a previous meeting but decided Tuesday to sign it.
For several years, state officials have, through an initiative, encouraged emergency responders and other agencies to switch to the 800 MHz system. Routt County has been using and will continue to use its VHF system, but it will use the grant to help pay for an about $1.6 million project to build into the state's system.
County officials said building into the state's system would allow for better communication among agencies, especially during major incidents.
On Tuesday, Stahoviak and Ellison met with Faith Mendoza, the county's communications director, and Chuck Vale, the county's director of emergency management. With them were Mike Borrego, an electronic engineer with the state of Colorado, and Ron Painchaud of Motorola, the company that has a contract with the state to expand the 800 MHz system.
The county's communications advisory board has been discussing a possible switchover from the VHF system to the 800 MHz system, Mendoza said. Officials are not sure when they would implement the potential change, and they are concerned about how to fund it, Mendoza said. She said area towns do not have the funds to install new equipment in ambulances and fire trucks. Officials could ask for a countywide grant to provide funding, Mendoza said, or they could ask for funding in separate pieces.
Officials also are talking about asking for funding to purchase 800 MHz mobile equipment for all Routt County entities, Vale said.
Potential funding for equipment might come from homeland security grants, he said.
As a test, Vale has been using mobile and portable 800 MHz equipment. There are a couple of spots that have zero or low coverage, he said, but he thinks the addition of the new sites will help. The sites include King Canyon Mountain, Hayden and Farwell.
The region is headed toward building a "backbone" to support the state's system, Vale said. A priority for a Northwest Colorado homeland security group is to provide 800 MHz radios in every ambulance in the 10-county area.
In the meeting, Stahoviak emphasized that county officials have a lot of decisions to make about how far they want to go with implementation of the 800 MHz system.
"There is still a lot of evaluation internally in the next year to determine where we're headed as a county and with our agencies," she said.