Lucas County commissioners took a major step last night that is expected to lead to the acquisition of a countywide emergency radio communication system estimated to cost close to $30 million.
In a 3-0 vote, commissioners voted to negotiate a contract with Motorola that spells out what has to be done to create the system's infrastructure.
That portion alone will cost about $15 million and will pay for 18 transmitters and receivers at 12 tower sites throughout the county, a microwave system that allows towers to communicate with each other, and other equipment.
Once the system is fully operational, police, fire, and emergency rescue personnel in the cities, villages, and townships of Lucas County are expected to share use.
Other surrounding counties, including Monroe County in Michigan, may eventually tie into it, Sheriff James Telb said.
Once terms of a contract with Motorola are worked out in the coming weeks, an agreement with its funding provisions will be put to another vote of commissioners. Officials want to have new equipment up and running in two years.
Most of the $15 million for infrastructure has been obtained through an array of grants, including Homeland Security funds. A coalition of area communities applied for funding.
"The reason we have been able to get so much money from the federal government is we are all working together," Toledo Fire Chief Michael Bell told commissioners.
Sheriff Telb said the inadequacy of the existing system has long been evident, and especially noticeable Feb. 15, 1992, when a loaded cargo plane operated by Burlington Air Express crashed near Toledo Express Airport, killing three crewmen and a passenger.
"A lot of folks responded [to the crash], but nobody could speak to each other," Sheriff Telb said. Emergency safety personnel had different radios that used different radio frequencies.
"We started talking with each other about getting something better so we could talk and share information with each other when responding to events," he said.
Motorola was the lower of two bidders. The other bidder was M/A-COM, said Mike Koontz, a consultant to the sheriff's office on the project.
The second phase of the project, which includes equipping safety personnel and their vehicles with new digital radio equipment, will cost at least $13 million. Officials said they are confident money for that portion can be found.
There are a small number of portable radios throughout the county now that allow cross-department communications, but they are not very reliable.
"The reality is that all of the radios and portable [communication] equipment for safety and law enforcement will have to be replaced," Mr. Koontz said.