Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Area News

March 26, 2014

Carey updates panel on radio system problems

Mayor hopes to have recommendation at end of month

CROSSVILLE — Cumberland County Mayor Kenneth Carey Jr. told the emergency services committee that all tower sites on the P-25 emergency communications system were stabilized, but one site is still having some microwave antenna issues.

Carey said the Black Mountain tower site was still having some microwave issues and that the site is not quite working 100 percent, according to a crew with Cassidian.

"Cassidian had a tower crew in here for a two days and found several issues with the system," Carey said.

Carey, who was requested to investigate the problems with the P-25 emergency communications system by the emergency services committee two months ago, said that the crew with Cassidian found 65 percent of the stations on the system had drifted out of range and have been readjusted back to the system specifications.

He said they reported that tree growth was blocking the signal path at the Campbell Junction tower site and they recommended the tower be raised to clear up the blockage.

Carey said they also reported the tower site at Pomona had a line that was connected improperly and was repaired and showed much improvement.

He said the firmware version the county was using was a pre-release version and that Cassidian said replacing it with the current version would fix a lot of bugs in the system with the Kenwood radios.

Carey said he was told to replace all microwave antennas would cost roughly $100,000.

"I am not comfortable with recommending that until we get the system looked at and worked out and determine if we are going to stay with the current radio system," Carey said.

He also said some servers had been sent back to Cassidian for repair and he was waiting for reports back from Harris, Motorola and Tait concerning their visits and issues they see with the system.

"By the end of the month I hope to hear from them and can give a better report or recommendation," Carey said.

Several Cumberland County Sheriff's Department deputies attended the meeting and said they are still having issues with their radios, being heard or hearing calls and communicating with dispatch.

Sheriff's Deputy Tom Howard said an emergency button signaled by his radio took five minutes to get a reply from dispatch.

He said he and Donnie Buttram, E-911 communications director, spoke about an alarm light that used to be in the dispatch center but was disconnected when the computer upgrade and dispatch remodel was performed.

Roy Turner, 7th District commissioner, asked why the light was disconnected.

Buttram said they would have to ask Eric Ritzman, who disconnected the light. He further explained that now the signal is seen on the monitor instead.

Ritzman serves as a part-time maintenance consultant for the P25 radio system. He also works at the E-911 emergency communications center for the 911 board.

Commissioner Sonya Rimmer, 8th District, asked why Ritzman was not at the meeting, or the past couple of meetings.

Nancy Hyder, 2nd District commissioner and committee chairman said she did not know.

Deputies said they were frustrated with the radios not working and having to use personal cell phones to communicate with dispatch.

They asked if they could text or communicate with Carey when they have a problem and to let them know what the problem was.

Carey said that would be fine and he appreciated that.

Buttram said that anytime there is a problem with the radio system it is recorded, or documented in the CAD.

"This CAD gets emailed to me, the mayor and Cassidian and is available to anyone who wants to see it. If someone claims they didn't know about it it's because they are not looking within the (communications) system," Buttram said.

Nick Grossman, who worked with a P25 system in emergency communications in Florida for several years, said he thought the radio system could be salvaged.

He explained the system needed to be switched from a multicast radio system to a simulcast and that currently the system is mixed and is causing a lot of the problems. He suggested the quickest way to fix it would be by reprogramming all of the radios.

Hyder said Carey would have the reports back at the end of the month from the radio companies and Carey said he should have a recommendation by then.

Hyder said they would hold a special-called meeting to discuss the matter.

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