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County approves $467K for police, fire radio system upgrades

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Emergency Services Director Bill Fahlsing requested $467,000 from Stark County Commissioners Tuesday for radio equipment upgrades so city and county first response agencies can join the state's coming SIRN 2020 project. (Brandon L. Summers / The Dickinson Press)

Stark County Commissioners Tuesday approved $467,000 in radio equipment upgrades for Dickinson Police Departmant and Dickinson Fire Department.

The upgrades will allow the departments to join the Statewide Interoperable Radio Network, or SIRN 2020, Emergency Services Director Bill Fahlsing explained.

"The state is building out a statewide radio system," he said. "That radio system is to benefit first responders across the state."

First response is more than just police and fire. It includes road department and emergency management, among others agencies.

"Anyone who uses a private or government issued mobile or portable radio will have access to this system," Fahlsing said.

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If the county's call-taking software goes down, calls can be rerouted to any other 911 call center in the state. But while they can take that call, they have no access to the county's radio system.

"That means they cannot page out the fire department or ambulance services. They cannot communicate with our law enforcement agencies," Fahlsing said. "With this system, any dispatch center that comes online with the SIRN project essentially becomes our backup center and vice versa."

Stark County's dispatch center must first be upgraded for any other entity to be able to join the SIRN project.

Radio equipment at both DPD and DFD is currently reaching the end of its life.

"They're ready to jump onboard with the SIRN project, but that can't happen until our dispatch equipment is upgraded to meet the requirements of the SIRN project," Fahlsing said.

In addition to updating radio equipment, those funds will also be used to add a redundant network circuit.

"If anything goes down with the primary circuit, we'll have a backup circuit to operate off," he said.

Dickinson Police Chief Dustin Dassinger said the city and county would benefit from upgrading to join SIRN 2020.

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The current simulcast radio system used by both departments since 2012 has reached the end of its useable life, he said.

"It affects the fire department more than the PD right now, because it's expired. They can no longer get the appropriate equipment to update that system," he said. "PD is getting really close. That is a very expensive system to update and it wouldn't be beneficent to the taxpayer to install a system when we know it's going to have a short life."

He added, "Eventually, SIRN 2020 is going to have to be implemented in our city and county."

The funds will be drawn from the county's information technology budget, which is at roughly $1.8 million for 2020.

Auditor Kay Haag said the request would not negatively impact the budget.

County Commissioners Tuesday also heard an update on their new social services building.

Construction of the building on Fairway Street, near CHI St. Alexius Medical Center, began this summer.

The $12 million project is being completed by Scull Construction.

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Scull Project Manager Rod Cockeram explained structural steel has started going up.

"We decided not to pour the concrete," he said. "We're going to get the building covered first and then we'll pour it as the weather allows us to."

Some MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) engineering has been prepped, but paving has been delayed due to weather. The project is expected to be completed and in operation by fall 2020.

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