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Local Government 800MHz Upgrade Expected to Give Manatee Better Public Safety Integration


BRADENTON -- At Tuesday's BOCC work session, Manatee County Department of Public Safety Radio Communication Director Willie Miranda provided an update on Manatee's new 800MHz radio communication program. He reviewed its history, current state and described what it will have to offer to the county's future communication abilities. 

Manatee's radio division moved to Public Safety in January 2011. The county hired Willie Miranda in November 2011 to focus on a "customer service" business model that could better serve the county's needs. New radios and towers that will provide regional communication with all public safety and intergovernmental support agencies, will accommodate 5,000 radios and 40,000 push to talks a day.

The goal is to implement a strategic plan that will adopt an open radio platform that will have 99.999% system reliability (equating to about five minutes of down time per year). Not only will all Public Safety divisions be able to communicate with each other, but with emergency services, fire department and law enforcement as well. County to county communications will also be possible. This will allow a functional regional approach when responding to emergencies like hurricanes.

"Radios are often all there is, as far as communications goes," said Miranda. "After a disaster, public safety is the main reason we have radios."

He recommended creating awareness of the importance of two-way communications even with non-public safety agencies and creating a wireless communication policy with a strategic plan to accommodate current and future needs.

Manatee County is in a unique position because it now builds, operates and maintains all of its radio services. Public Safety Department Director Bill Hutchison said, "We are the one with the radio shop. "The shop is currently tied to one vender for purchasing portable equipment, but with the revised system it can buy from multiple vendors. There are expectations the county will save revenue by having the opportunity to purchase from a variety of handsets, and buying in bulk will provide additional savings.

Speaking to the advantages of having regional communication, Commissioner Joe McClash said, "It worked with water and transportation," and later added, "Serving on the MPO gives you the ability to see what regionalizing can do."   

The final cost for the complete system to be implemented and coordinated as a regional service is estimated to run near $13 million. Money from grants will provide some revenue and other sources are being pursued, but most will come from the county budget. Future workshops will table that issue. 


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