ELIZABETHTOWN — The transition to the new VIPER radio for Bladen County is under way in the county and the first phase is the remodeling and addition of new furniture to the 911 call center.
According to Bladen County Sheriff Steve Bunn, the project will cost the county about $2.1 million when completed and is being spurred on by the decommissioning of the Channel 6 TV tower that will follow the switch to DTV in September. One of the county’s current 911 transmitters is housed on that tower and Bunn said the county has been told that there are no guarantees on the county’s ability to use the tower after February 2009.
“We’re remodeling, repainting and installing new furniture,” said Bunn on Tuesday morning. “It’s difficult to do a lot in this room because the call center is active 24 hours a day.”
On Tuesday morning, county employees were hard at work on the renovation to the call center while the call center itself was temporarily being housed in an 8 x 10 vacant office space, according to Bunn. He expects the renovations to be completed and the call center back in its proper location by Friday.
“What has evolved recently is Bladenboro Police Chief Ronnie Rising helped us to locate some military surplus dispatch furniture,” said Bunn.
The surplus furniture will be installed during this renovation. In May, central dispatching was outfitted with a new computer system for the VIPER service and in October, new radio equipment will be installed, said Bunn.
“By Dec. 1 central will be brand new. They’ll have new radio equipment, a new computer system and a fresh environment to work in,” said Bunn of the switch.
Work is also beginning on another phase of the project that will focus on a complete rebuild of the county’s UHF radio paging system, according to Bunn.
“We have the equipment ordered for it,” said Bunn.
The project will include replacing the transmitters located at the school bus tower and the addition of new transmitters located on four existing towers located in the four “corners” of the county, according to Bunn.
“All five towers will be interconnected with microwave to give us total coverage of the county,” said Bunn.
Bunn expects the county to receive the VIPER user radios by mid-September. Bunn expects to purchase about 350 radios for equipment and personnel. He described the purchase as a combination of walkie-talkies and car radios.
Bunn expects the county to start ordering the radios and installing them with law enforcement about mid-September or October. The installations are tentatively planned for the fire and rescue personnel in November. The overall goal is to have the entire system fully operational by Dec. 1, said Bunn.
“Of course, that can change at any time,” said Bunn. “It’s a lot to get done.”