Grayson County Sheriff Tom Watt received permission this week to continue to work on communications between his dispatchers and the deputies in the field. The purchases approved this week for repeaters and receivers will top out at around $1 million.
“We are not talking about the handheld radios and the radios in the cars,” Watt told commissioners. “We are talking about the nuts and bolts of the ability of the transmission from the Sheriff’s Office or the volunteer fire department to be picked up and transferred from one part of the county to another,” Watt said.
He said the end of life of the current system is the end of this year. Speaking about timing, Grayson County Judge Bill Magers said he understands that the county doesn’t generally enter into deals of this size outside of its budget sessions in late summer and early fall. However, he said, the company at hand, Motorola’s year ends in June and that is the best time to make the best deal.
Watt said that the current systems’ end of life is this year. The upgrades, he said, will include putting out extra repeaters and receivers.
“We have some dead spots out in western Grayson County,” Watt said. He said when officers pull someone bigger than themselves over at 3 a.m. on a county road, they want their mics to work as they ask for help.
“We want that radio to work. We will increase our radio communication capacity,” Watt stressed.
He stressed that the money the GCSO wants to spend is to support the Grayson County Emergency Communications System and not just the communication system for the GCSO. Everyone, he said, uses it and everyone depends upon it. It is just the GCSO’s responsibility to take care of it.
“All of the smaller police departments use it. The volunteer fire departments use it. Everybody uses it,” he said.
Magers said the bill for the system won’t actually come due this year. He said it will be paid in installments and the first one isn’t due until fall of 2020. The lifespan of the system will be 12 years.
Grayson County Commissioner Jeff Whitmire asked if the new system will require the little towns around Sherman and Denison to go out and buy new equipment. He was told the answer to that question is “no” except for some programming that is figured into the cost of the upgrade.
The upgrade will also add one additional channel which Watt said will be used in the event of a major incident in the county.
“When the bad thing happens, and notice I said ‘when the bad thing happens,’” Watt said. He finished the thought by adding that having the second channel would let those working the bad thing to communicate while the rest of the county continues to go about its regular business as much as possible.
Commissioner Phyllis James moved to approve the purchase and Commissioner Bart Lawrence seconded her motion. No one voted against it.
Jerrie Whiteley is the Criminal Justice Editor. She can be reached at JWhiteley@heralddemocrat.com.