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VALPARAISO — The Porter County Board of Commissioners approved the purchase Tuesday of more than $1 million in new emergency radios, including more than $200,000 to help various township and town governments bring their equipment up to date.

"This is a one-time offering from the county to get everyone up to speed," said Porter County Commissioner President Jeff Good, R-Center.

The county is covering 70 percent of the costs to the various departments for upgrading their radios to 800 megahertz per federal requirements, he said. This includes $116,052 for the South Haven Volunteer Fire Department, $37,927 for the Hebron Police Department, $36,864 for the Washington Township Volunteer Fire Department and $26,231 for the Kouts Police Department.

The balance of the purchase will upgrade radios within county government, including the sheriff, highway and emergency management departments, Good said.

The expenditure, which is part of a wider upgrade to comply with the new federal regulations, is being paid for with proceeds from the 2007 sale of the county hospital that were not invested in the county's new foundation. The move required unanimous approval of the commissioners and County Council.

The upgrade, which is designed to improve local communication, has also involved the investment of nearly $4.4 million to increase the number of radio towers in the county.

The goal is to have the new system up and running by March, Good said.

Lake County already has an 800 MHz 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.

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Porter/LaPorte county reporter

Bob is a 23-year veteran of The Times. He covers county government and courts in Porter County, federal courts, police news and regional issues. He also created the Vegan in the Region blog, is an Indiana University grad and lifelong region resident.