Vandalia part of county-wide radio upgrade for police, fire departments

By Darrell Wacker -

By Darrell Wacker

VANDALIA – Vandalia fire and police personnel will see a change in the way they communicate with first responders across Montgomery County and the state next summer. July 1 is the target date for implementation of the Montgomery County Multi-Agency Radio Communications System (MARCS).

MARCS is being implemented state-wide radio system that will implement a digital communication system that will allow for inter-operability among agencies and provide “statewide, secure, reliable public service wireless communication for public safety and first responders” according to the MARCS website.

Vandalia has been undergoing a phased in replacement program for its analog radios and will have nearly all its radios converted to the new P25 (digital) compliant technology by the end of 2015. The second phase of that upgrade for the fire department is expected to be under consideration at the July 20 Vandalia City Council meeting.

“This is the second year of our capital radio placement plan,” said Fire Chief Chad Follick. “We will have 90 percent of our radios ready for new county system by the end of this year. We have a third phase of the project budgeted for 2016 to catch the remaining 10 percent of portable radios. Our intent would be to have everything P25 MARCS ready by late summer 2017.”

Vandalia police anticipate having all equipment in place later this year, including an upgrade to its Communications Center. Police Chief Douglas Knight said that the city will install and test the equipment early next year.

“We will install and test the equipment during the first and second quarters of 2016,” said Knight. “Montgomery County expects to have the new Montgomery County/MARCS system operational by July 1, 2016. The county will run dual systems, both old and new, through the first half of next year, maybe longer, as the many participants transition their radios.”

As part of the county-wide implementation, county officials are negotiating with Vandalia for a lease of space on the Attica water tower for an antenna. The county would pay Vandalia $20,000 annually once the agreement is finalized.

Those lease payments will offset Vandalia’s fee of $20 per month, per radio, to participate in the MARCS system which will be administered by a Montgomery County Regional Radio Council of Governments. That body has not yet been formed.

The purpose of the Council will be for the “administration, management and operation” of the system according to Vandalia City Manager Jon Crusey in his June 12 letter to City Council. Day-to-day operations will be overseen by the Sheriff’s office, however.

Reach Darrell Wacker at 937-684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.
Reach Darrell Wacker at 937-684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.