Floyd County Commission Chairman Eddie Lumsden said the 10-tower, 800-megahertz digital trunking system from Harris Corp. would give the county a state-of-the-art connectivity edge.
“Rome will be a key location for the ABC Triangle — Atlanta, Birmingham, Chattanooga,” he told the crowd.
Lumsden, Rome Mayor Evie McNiece and Cave Spring Mayor Rob Ware used Rome’s VHF radio system to perform the first test of the new Unity radios, demonstrating they can interface with diverse systems.
Local first responders have long dreamed of interoperability.
“I’ve been here 24 years, and we’ve never been able to talk directly to the city police, fire department or (emergency medical services),” said Floyd County Police Maj. Tom Ewing.
The reliability and 518-square-mile reach of the new 800 megahertz system also will be a relief, Rome police Maj. Travis Goss said. Public safety officers won’t have to worry about static and dead spots. “We have one tower up on a hill right now, but we’ll have redundancy with this,” Goss said. “If one fails, another will pick up the signal. You’ll know when you mash that (radio) button, someone’s going to hear you.”
The presentation in The Forum arena focused on the partnerships that brought the 2009 special purpose, local option sales tax project to fruition.
A major player was master of ceremonies Scotty Hancock, director of the Floyd County Emergency Management Agency and recipient of the EMA Director of 2011 award by the Emergency Managers Association of Georgia.
Hancock credited the Citizens SPLOST Advisory Committee and the multi-agency Public Safety Communications Committee for thoroughly vetting the project cost and benefits.
Willis Potts, who chaired the Citizens SPLOST committee, lauded his fellow members and local voters “who had the foresight to see that, through a 1-cent sales tax, we could do things that were otherwise unattainable.”
The president of Harris’ public safety and professional communications division, Steve Marschilok, showed a video of military and government agencies in action with the Harris P25 system. Click here to see the video.
The system will let local agencies communicate across county lines, he explained, and provide more immediate capacity with “a path for future expansion.”
Williams Communications will be servicing the technology from its new office in Rome.
Vice President Scott Maddox, a former mayor of Tallahassee, Fla., said he and his company take their responsibility seriously. He also praised the local collaboration on the massive project.
“I’ve never seen such an example of cities and county working together with top-notch staff,” Maddox said.
McNiece recalled the frightening and frustrating communication gaps shown during the March 2008 tornado that ripped through the Wax Community and killed two people. She said voters rallied for the future with their decision to pass the penny sales tax.
“There has never been a project funded by SPLOST that will have a more direct impact on the citizens of Floyd County,” Ware agreed.