VALPARAISO — While Porter County government invests millions of dollars to upgrade its emergency radio system to meet new federal regulations, it is now reaching out to help bring township-level fire departments along in the process.
The County Board of Commissioners agreed last week to spend $68,000 to cover the local share of a federal grant that four south-county townships secured to purchase new radio equipment.
The townships slated to benefit from the move are Pleasant, Morgan, Boone and Porter, said Commissioner President Jeff Good, R-Center.
The investment makes sense considering the townships have limited financial resources and the county can help secure $748,000 in equipment with the much smaller local contribution, he said.
Financial assistance will be provided to the other townships as well, Good said, but the amounts will vary based on need and their available resources. He hopes to have a financial proposal together in time to present it to the County Council next month.
The county is upgrading its radio system to 800 megahertz in an effort that will not only improve local communication, but also bring it into compliance with upcoming federal standards, Good has said.
The commissioners agreed in December to spend nearly $4.4 million to increase the number of radio towers in the county to five as part of the upgrade. New 200-foot towers are being installed at the south and central portions of the county, and the county will share the state's tower to the north.
The county is also purchasing upgraded radios for its jail and highway, Emergency Management and Sheriff's departments, Good said, as well as for the ambulances contracted with Porter Regional Hospital.
The cities and towns are also required to take part in the radio upgrade, but they have more financial resources than the townships and thus county government will not be providing them with assistance, he said.
The county's upgraded system should be up and running during the first few months of 2018, Good said.
Lake County already has an 800 megahertz system in place.
LaPorte County is undertaking an upgrade similar to that in Porter County, said John Asher, field services director with the Indiana Integrated Public Safety Commission.
The agency helped build a statewide emergency communications network in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, he said. What the local counties are doing is building up and enhancing that system.
Asher said his agency helps out the counties by providing good prices on the necessary equipment and then picking up the ongoing maintenance costs.