In an effort to keep pace with a federal mandate concerning emergency radios, the Rhome City Council approved a loan to purchase 20 new narrowband-capable radios for the police department.
By a vote of 4-1, the council approved the purchase of the radios by way of a three-year, $23,347.40 loan from Government Capital Corp. The loan will be paid back in three annual payments and will cover the cost of 10 handheld radios and 10 more for police vehicles.
Although all the council was in favor of the new radios, there was some division on how to pay for them.
Council member Jo Ann Wilson cast the lone vote against the measure, but only because she was opposed to the city borrowing money.
“I’m not opposed to buying radios,” she said. “I’m opposed to borrowing money … We should use money going to the (EMS first responder position) to keep from going into debt.
“I have trouble borrowing money. I know the chief needs new radios, but it’s how we get them I’m concerned about.”
“No matter how we buy them we need to go ahead and get them ordered,” said Mayor Chris Moore. “I don’t want to be in a situation where they say it’s time to switch over tomorrow, and we don’t have them.”
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ordered that all public safety agencies and businesses using mobile radio systems must transition to narrowband technology. The deadline, which has shifted several times over the years, was Jan. 1, 2013.
According to the FCC, the transition is designed “to ensure more efficient use of the spectrum and greater access for public safety and non-public safety users.”
Although the Jan. 1 date has come and gone, many public safety agencies have not yet implemented the narrowband radio systems in their departments. Rhome police and fire use Wise County’s dispatch system. Although the county has already purchased the new radio equipment, they are still in the process of installing it.
Rhome Volunteer Fire Department has already purchased narrowband-capable radios. And the Decatur fire and police departments, which have their own dispatch, has already made the switch to narrowband.
Councilmember Cole Blanche made the motion to go ahead and purchase the radios. He said they could look into paying off the loan early with no penalties in order to prevent any debt from hanging over the city.