Austintown, Boardman team up for radio system

By Ashley Luthern

and Elise Franco

Officials for Austintown and Boardman townships say the joint purchase of a $1.7 million Motorola radio system will be the first of many collaborative efforts.

The federal government has mandated all public-safety and industrial/ business land-mobile- radio (LMR) systems to narrowband — switching from analog systems to digital — by Jan. 1, 2013.

“We have to take our current frequencies and narrowband to allow for more channels,” said Boardman administrator Jason Loree.

In a special meeting last week, Boardman trustees approved contributing to the project. The township will not use any general-fund money for the equipment. The $700,000 share will be paid for by federal grants and the Law Enforcement Trust Fund, Loree said.

“Instead of each of us trying to be compliant with the federal government, we’re working together,” he added.

Loree said the system was purchased through the State Cooperative Purchasing Program, in which services are essentially bid out by the state on behalf of local government agencies, saving the townships from going through its own bidding process.

The township governments will close the deal with Motorola within the next month, and the equipment should be in place between six to eight months, he added.

Austintown Trustee Jim Davis said signing the contract with Motorola before the end of the year saves them about $190,000. He said Austintown also will get a rebate of about $24,000 by trading in old equipment.

Davis said the board voted Monday to approve their contribution to the project. Davis said Austintown is expected to pay about $850,000, with a portion of that paid for by the Austintown Township School District.

“Both [Austintown and Boardman] dispatch centers are in need of a new radio system,” he said. “Austintown’s is from the ’70s, and it’s pretty antiquated.”

Davis said the township will fund its portion through a loan agreement.

He said the new equipment will increase interaction among all departments within Austintown.

“Right now our fire department uses a backup system ... to get them through until their radios are re-banded,” he said. “Our firemen can’t even talk to our police officers at a scene.”

He said the shared system will be crucial to both townships, especially if one malfunctions.

“If something should happen at the dispatch center, one of our dispatchers could go to Boardman and everything would come up as if they were sitting in front of a computer in Austintown,” Davis said.

Davis said the trustees also have approached the township school district about participating.

Austintown Superintendent Vince Colaluca said the district’s participation is preliminary. Colaluca said the district already partners with the township on its current radio system.

“Nothing is 100 percent official yet, but we know we need to [join] because there really is no alternative,” he said. “We can’t operate the analog system the way it is, and for us to go out on our own doesn’t make sense.”

Boardman schools have not expressed interest in joining the system, Loree said.

“The system can be expanded to allow them in,” he said. “... If other communities want to join, the expansion costs are significantly reduced.”

Loree said the joint effort is “absolutely a major step” to having more collaboration in dispatching.

“It’s a great step forward for both communities,” he said.