Aug. 4, 2002

By the end of the year, almost all local agencies will be able to communicate with each other on one common radio system.

That will allow civil defense, police, fire, waterworks, public works, engineering and Coroner's Office personnel to communicate more efficiently in an emergency, said Civil Defense Director George Souderes.

"This will bring us under one umbrella," Souderes said. The one exception is the Adams County (Miss.) Sheriff's Office, which will keep its current dual-mode radio system.

Adams County 911 Communications Board has awarded a $1.2 million contract to Kay Radio of Vidalia to install the 450-megahertz system.

The system is being paid for through a $1 per household and $2 per business 911 charge on telephone bills.

The system will allow participating agencies to talk with each other when needed, but each agency will also have channels for its own personnel to communicate with each other.

The Natchez Police Department was exploring purchasing its own 800-megahertz radio system last year but scrapped the plans when they found it would cost $3 million. The new system will have three repeater channels, which have strong enough signals to cover the entire county. "Right now, we only have one repeater channel," said Interim Police Chief Mike Mullins.

"So now, the Police Department's system only works inside town only," said Dave Ragan, owner of Kay Radio. The Sheriff's Office chose not to participate in the new system because it did not wish to scrap a $500,000, 450-megahertz system it installed five years ago with federal grant money.

The Sheriff's Office also has its older, low-band system, which allows it to communicate with agencies outside Adams County, said Sheriff Tommy Ferrell.

"So it's actually a dual system," Ferrell said. "It has better quality, range and performance (than the old system)."

Once the new countywide system is installed, the only way other Adams County and Natchez agencies will be able to communicate with the Sheriff's Office is by getting permission to program that office's channel into the new radios, Ragan said.

Also, to talk with state agencies such as the Highway Patrol or the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, Adams County will have to provide such agencies with radios connected to the new system, he said. But Mullins said Natchez police will still be able to talk with other jurisdictions on a statewide radio band in case of emergencies.

(© 2002 Natchez Newspapers Inc. All rights reserved. Republished with permission.)