Motorola to build radio system for two Va. counties

Motorola Inc. will build a new system that will allow radio communications among public safety agencies in two Virginia counties for the first time, officials of the Schaumburg, Ill., company said today.

York County and James City County awarded the $20.2 million contract. The 800 MHz system will begin to serve 1,600 users in September 2004, including fire, sheriff, police and public works departments from both counties. Eventually, more than 2,000 users will be on the system.

Currently, emergency responders in York County have limited ability to communicate quickly with police officers or responding fire units when they find someone in medical distress or involved in a crime situation, said Terry Hall, communications manager for York County. For instance, when a tornado touched down in York County this past August, deputies, firefighters, road crews and emergency medical personnel could not talk to each other on their radios due to lack of interoperability. They had to exchange information through a dispatcher.

"This new technology will change that," Hall said. "All of our emergency responders now will be able to talk with each other at the scene and confer with others located in James City County and other neighboring counties."

Because the system has both digital and analog capabilities, users will be able to communicate directly with nearby jurisdictions that have compatible equipment, including the cities of Richmond, Virginia Beach and Newport News, said Richard Miller, chief of the James City County Fire Department.

York County is in the Williamsburg area, covers 108 square miles and has more than 56,000 residents. James City County, just west of York County, covers 144 square miles and has more than 49,000 residents.

The counties plan to build nine towers to accommodate the antennas and microwave dishes that will connect all the system sites together. Dispatchers will manage communications traffic from two Motorola consoles located at the existing dispatch center. Employees of the public safety agencies will use Motorola digital portable and mobile radios.

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