Floyd County, Ga., recently conducted a groundbreaking ceremony on a new 10-site, 800 MHz P25 radio system built by Harris that will replace a legacy conventional system, according to a county official.

Located 60 miles north of Atlanta, Floyd County has a population of 96,000 and covers 518 square miles. The county currently uses a single-site conventional network, with various public-safety departments operating on disparate UHF and VHF bands — a system with flaws that were highlighted during a 2008 tornado, according to Scotty Hancock, Floyd County’s emergency management agency director.

By transitioning to a new P25 system that also will support public-safety departments in the cities of Rome and Cave Spring, Floyd County will avoid paying millions of dollars to narrowband its existing system, improve internal and external interoperability, and improve radio coverage and reliability, Hancock said.

“Right now, we have one tower, which is a single point of failure,” Hancock said. “Now, with this microwave loop with 10 sites, if one of them goes down, another one is going to pick up where the other one left off.”

The system will be funded by a $26 million special-use sales tax that voters narrowly approved, Hancock said. Public-works personnel will be the first to operate on the system in December 2012 to “make sure we’ve got the bugs worked out of it before we turn it over to our public-safety folks,” he said. In addition to the public-safety and public-works users, school-system personnel also will be supported by the new network, meaning there will be about 1,400 users on the system.

While the new P25 system should provide several benefits, it will represent a “culture change” in the county’s communication operations — most notably, it will mark the first time the county will use talk groups, Hancock said.

“We’re going from a one-site conventional system to a 10-site simulcast system,” Hancock said, noting that training will be a critical component of the system rollout. “It’s been a huge challenge so far and will continue to be for awhile, but we seem to be doing all right.”