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September 23, 2017

9/6/2017 2:35:00 PM
Covington Still Evaluating Costs Of Radio Upgrades
Local News Editor

Covington City Council convened Tuesday night in order to hold a discussion in relation to a potential joint P25 Phase 2 Radio Communications System with Alleghany County.

“We’ve been working for a long while with Alleghany County in pursuing a potential joint radio system,” Covington City Manager Richard Douglas said to begin the discussion.

Douglas also stated that Ryan Muterspaugh, Alleghany County’s public safety director gave the city of Covington his blessing to start putting numbers together for the joint radio system.

“The county is ready to move forward. They’ve asked us for an indication by Friday, Sept. 22 on whether or not it is our intent to continue in the process,” Douglas also said about pursuing a joint radio system.

In order to get more of a clear direction, representatives from the vendor for the joint radio system, Harris Corporation took time to answer questions that Covington city council and the public has on the joint radio system.

Before the Harris Corporation representatives spoke, Covington City Police Chief J.B. Broughman took a few moments to address city council.

“I remain a proponent of this system. I believe this system will do a lot for increasing our interoperability across jurisdictions. I think it will improve our ability to talk to each other,” Broughman stated.

After Broughman addressed city council, a breakdown of the finances were then presented for council members to look over.

The financial agreement in place for the joint radio system is an 80/20 agreement where the county pays 80 percent, while Covington pays 20 percent.

The breakdown included pricing for physical facilities ($181,166.25), radio system ($542,145.55), connectivity network ($115,599.38), paging system ($27,937.50). dispatch centers ($137,829.67), subscribers ($466,760.46) and services ($300,448.60).

Those base quote totals equaled $1,771,887.40, but with a project discount of $456,743.80, the total annual cost for the joint radio system would be $1,315,143.60.

That amount reflects the 20 percent portion that Covington would have to pay annually for the joint radio system and it does not include any type of leasing.

Also included in the financial breakdown were maintenance costs that Covington would have to pay.

The first year of maintenance fees were included in the grand total for the annual payments.

Starting with the second year in the system, an annual maintenance fee of $178,723.60 would have to be paid by Covington to keep the system maintained.

After breaking down the finances, Sheena Maxwell a representative of Harris Corporation from Atlanta, Ga. then explained how the system would operate.

Before explaining what system would consist of, it was announced that Maxwell was the engineer and designer of the potential joint radio system for Alleghany County and Covington.

The system would be a UHF Simulcast radio system, that would consist of five radio channels.

Maxwell stated that there would be three dispatch centers under the potential joint radio system, Covington and Alleghany County dispatch centers being the two primary dispatch centers while Clifton Forge would serve as a backup.

A final detail Maxwell touched on that there would be seven tower sites, Warm Springs, Peters Mountain, Smith-Dew, Horse Mountain, McAllister, Coles Mountain and Clifton Forge.

During Maxwell’s presentation on the specifics of the system that she designed, councilman Bill Zimmerman briefly touched on financing by asking, “Normally it is 27 isn’t it?”

Zimmerman asked based on why the percentage split was 80/20 instead of a 73/27 percentage split.

After the financial question, the discussion continued on how the system would work.

It was explained that each of the seven sites would have five radio channels and that is how UHF Simulcast works in this system.

Later in the discussion, Covington Vice Mayor David Crosier questioned the life expectancy of the current radio system.

Broughman informed him that he estimated there was three to four more years of usage left in the current radio system.

“We can manage, but we need to upgrade,” Broughman said of the need to get the potential joint radio system.

The discussion once again shifted to finances when concerns were raised about Covington and Alleghany County were the only two stakeholders for the joint radio system.

Zimmerman asked, “How does Clifton Forge fit into that?”

“Clifton Forge is part of Alleghany County,” Douglas answered.

Another financial concern that was raised is how pricing would be affected if the joint radio system was not pursued later in the future.

It was stated that inflation would take place and the costs for the radio system would increase significantly.

“In three to four years from now, you [Harris Corporation] can come back and name your price,” Director of Central Accounting David Bryant said about how pricing could be affected if the joint radio system was not pursued now.

The discussion on the joint radio system for Covington and Alleghany County concluded when Douglas re-emphasized that Alleghany County is ready to proceed with or without Covington.

Douglas also stated that Covington’s participation or non-participation would have an effect on how much Alleghany County could borrow to pay for a new radio system.

The following items were voted to be placed on the agenda for the regular meeting to be held Tuesday, Sept. 12:

— To consider a request for a public hearing regarding the abandonment of Riverton Road;

— To consider a change in the city holiday schedule;

— To consider a nomination for appointment to the Board of Zoning Appeals;

— To consider an appointment to the TAP Board;

— To consider second reading of Ordinance O-17-11 regarding an amendment to the IDA ordinance concerning the Joint EDC Development and Growth Sharing Agreement with Alleghany County.

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