New communication system coming

Published 4:21 pm Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Crenshaw County will soon be the proud owner of a new communications system, which is projected to prove beneficial to many departments county-wide.

The official contract with Jay Spurling of S and P Communications was signed at Monday night’s Crenshaw County Commission meeting, and the installation is said to start approximately 90 days after the paperwork is complete.

“The radio system we have now is an analogue system, and it is very outdated. Coverage for it is not like it needs to be,” said Elliott Jones, Crenshaw County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) director.

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“This system’s going to fix that. This system is so strong, has such good coverage and is digital. Literally, you can stand at the county line toward Davenport with a walkie talkie and talk to somebody at the county line down towards Opp, and it’s clear as a bell.”

Crenshaw County Commission Chairman Charlie Sankey is excited to see this project come to fruition, and believes that this system will be a great investment for the county.

“We’ve known for quite some time that we had issues with our ability to really communicate to the extreme north end of the county to the extreme south end. We have upgraded our communications systems in the past, but it was just that we never could afford the type of systems that we’ve been introduced to now,” Sankey said.

“S and P made it affordable, and thanks to municipalities helping fund a certain portion of it, as far as the county we’re only paying for us, the sheriff and the highway department. It’s huge for us.”

Sankey says that he personally does not know of any participating department that was not on board with making the change. Sankey also notes the importance of the half-cent sales tax which was passed earlier on, because of the help it offered for this project.

“The 25 percent that goes into that general fund is being 100 percent utilized for public safety, and there’s nothing being left in our general fund from that half-cent sales tax. We are doing exactly what we said,” he said.

Presently, the radio system used is not able to pick up calls county-wide, which poses a problem for law enforcement officers as well as the highway department workers.

Benjie Sanders, Crenshaw County Engineer, knows that the reliability of the new system will help not only the productivity of his department, but will also give more safety assurance.

“It will benefit us greatly. In addition to reliable service, we’ll have GPS capability, which will allow us to monitor the whereabouts of county equipment, trucks and vehicles,” Sanders said.

“Having increased radio communication will be big because there are areas of the county now where we just don’t have communication. It will also make things safer.”

The system will include the Crenshaw County EMA office, the Crenshaw County Highway Department, the Crenshaw County Sheriff’s Office, the Luverne Police Department, the Brantley Police Department, the City of Luverne, the Town of Brantley and the Luverne Fire Department.

Surrounding counties are also using this same type of system, which allows all those using the system in Crenshaw to switch frequencies and run off of those surrounding systems whenever it is necessary to go into another county. As previously mentioned, the system will offer GSP tracking devices to ensure units are kept up with. This gives added safety to officers and workers who may be called to rural areas.

Jones explained that if an issue occurs and the person is not able to call for assistance, the GPS can be used to locate the individual. There is also a panic button installed in the handheld set of the system. In the event of an emergency, the person need only to press the panic button on the device and a distress signal will be sent out over the radio.

“We’re basically moving into the 21st century with it. This is a state-of-the-art, as good as it gets, and doing it the way we’re doing it, we can actually afford it,” Jones said.

“The only cost we incurred was to purchase the radios and a usage fee of $2,000 a month split between the county, the 911 Center, the commission, highway department, the City of Luverne and the Town of Brantley.”

Jones says that the Crenshaw County Highway Department, along with the 911 Center, will pay $500. The Crenshaw County Commission, the City of Luverne and the Town of Brantley will pay $333 each.