Butler County chiefs debate $19M bill to replace emergency radios

  • Denise Callahan
  • Staff Writer
11:53 a.m. Friday, Aug. 25, 2017 Butler County
Fairfield Police officer Scott Webb displays his radio outside the police station, Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017. Butler County officials and police and fire departments across the county are looking at a $19.2 million price tag to replace parts of the 800 MHz communications systems, including the radios first responders carry.GREG LYNCH / STAFF

Police and fire chiefs from across Butler County met Thursday to discuss the looming $19.2 million bill to replace Motorola radios and infrastructure.

Butler County Sheriff’s Capt. Matt Franke, who is in charge of the system, said it was good to get all the chiefs together to get them all on the same page. There were some misconceptions that ongoing maintenance fees would cover the cost of replacement.

“What we learned was that most of the chiefs and city managers, folks like that we’re dealing with now, weren’t here 10 years ago,” Franke said. “They’re not the ones who signed the participation agreement or processed it.”

In 2005 the county commissioners approved a temporary sales tax levy to upgrade the county’s communications system. But now Motorola, the provider of Butler County’s equipment, doesn’t make the radios anymore. And beginning in 2019, won’t service them. Local jurisdictions are responsible for replacing their own radios.

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Several elected officials were caught off guard recently when news of the expensive replacement surfaced. County Administrator Charlie Young said he asked the sheriff to hold off as long as possible on the replacement.

It seemed everyone needed to budget replacements next year. Young said that may not be the case.

“The sheriff has worked out a financing plan where the payments would then be started in 2019 and would run for two or three or five years, whatever makes sense,” Young said. “The county can either pursue that financing scheme or find some other way to pay for it.”

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