Kent County Dispatch Authority launches new radio system

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The 800-megahertz radio system replaces an outdated analog system and joins the statewide radio system operated by the Michigan Public Safety Communication System, allowing coordination between local, state and federal agencies. Courtesy Kent County Dispatch Authority

The Kent County Dispatch Authority completed the construction and installation of a new $25 million countywide digital radio system for police, fire and emergency response personnel.

The 800-megahertz radio system replaces an outdated analog system and joins the statewide radio system operated by the Michigan Public Safety Communication System (MPSCS), allowing coordination between local, state and federal agencies.

Joining the statewide network will enable first responders to better communicate between agencies, which could save lives, property and time, particularly in large-scale incidents.

The $25.7 million countywide system is comprised of six new towers, 12 transmission sites and two 911 dispatch centers. Courtesy Kent County Dispatch Authority

The $25.7 million countywide system — funded by a 2016 voter-approved surcharge — is comprised of six new towers, 12 transmission sites and two 911 dispatch centers: Kent County and Grand Rapids. It is the result of nearly four years of planning, site acquisition, construction, equipment installation and testing.

The project was led by the Kent County Dispatch Authority (KCDA), which is the multijurisdictional board established by Kent County and the cities of Grand Rapids, Grandville, Walker and Wyoming to enhance 911 communication services in the county.

“This new system significantly improves radio coverage and communications for our first responders, which are essential to the safety of our community, as well as to the safety of personnel responding to critical incidents,” said Curtis Holt, KCDA chair and Wyoming city manager. “This project is an excellent example of intergovernmental collaboration that benefits the residents we serve and our public safety personnel.”

The Grand Rapids Police and Fire departments and Kent County Sheriff’s Office will begin to transition to the new system in early 2021. Existing MPSCS users have started to utilize the new countywide system.

“This system will significantly improve radio coverage and the clarity of the communications,” Kent County Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young said. “This is a major step forward as we work to continuously improve our public safety services. It also will enhance the safety of all first responders, particularly in large communitywide events where time is of the essence. ”

The project also includes the distribution of roughly 5,000 portable and mobile radios to more than 40 police and fire departments in Kent County. Courtesy Kent County Dispatch Authority

By joining the MPSCS system, public safety agencies in Kent County benefit from being part of a statewide system that has more than 279 existing transmission sites and more than 100,000 existing users and is maintained, upgraded and monitored 24/7 to ensure it is always ready to serve.

“The ability to communicate and collaborate quickly with neighboring agencies is critical,” Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Payne said. “This new system will help us advance our commitment to being a community where everyone feels safe and is safe.”

The new radio towers are in the city of Grand Rapids and Bowne, Casnovia, Gaines, Spencer and Vergennes townships. Antennas and equipment were added to sites in the cities of East Grand Rapids and Wyoming and Plainfield Township and on existing MPSCS tower locations in Kent County. Each municipality partnered with KCDA to place the towers and equipment within its community at no additional expense.

The project also includes the distribution of roughly 5,000 portable and mobile radios to more than 40 police and fire departments in Kent County. This will be done when agencies begin to transition to the new radio system.

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