Just one agency remains to complete the "migration" by city and DeSoto County first-response and public service units from an aging radio network to a new, $9 million state-of-the-art communications system from Motorola.
"We've got one agency left that's still in the process of migration," said DeSoto Emergency 911 District Director James Powell. "We're awaiting some subscriber units in the cars to be installed."
The massive project merges city police and firefighters, paramedics and ambulance services, county Emergency Management and Emergency Medical units, the Sheriff's Department, and road and utility crews into a long-sought, interoperable dispatch system that replaces an ailing, aging collection of components, some dating back to the DeSoto E-911 District's start in 1991. Training on the new radios and consoles was completed earlier this year.
As to total switch-over, "we're hoping for that by the end of December," said Powell. Following monitoring of the "full migration" for any glitches, "we expect the project to close out early next year."
The E-911 District oversees four communications towers, plus five dispatch centers across the county.
In his monthly report to the DeSoto E-911 Commission, Randy Willhite, vice president of operations contractor Integrated Communications, said linkup with another tower at Arkabutla, on the county's west side, should be completed in early December. Tie-in with a fifth "spur," a tower in Lewisburg to the east, already has been done to enhance coverage.
"It's really about redundancy," said Willhite of connecting the Arkabutla spur. "It's the last link to tie in the state system.
"Say a storm comes through and blows out one side" of the county's telecommunications wall, "we still have the other side sending and receiving," said Willhite.
With the new technology and tower boosts, the new radios will enable DeSoto dispatchers and Emergency Management coordinators to interact with fellow first-responders across the state, an essential tool for mutual aid amid a major disaster, through the Mississippi Wireless Information Network.
The Commission held a short executive session to address personnel matters, and when open session resumed the panel approved 3 percent cost-of-living raises for the E-911 District's two employees, Powell and Administrative Assistant Randi Elkins.
"They both do a great job," said Commissioner Chris Shelton, Southaven Director of Information and Emergency Communications. Added Commissioner Greg Phillips, Olive Branch Communications Manager, "It get us in line with the raise that the Board of Supervisors did for county employees."
Henry Bailey is Contributing Writer and Copy Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and at 662-429-6397, Ext. 241.