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Commissioners approve radio upgrade

JACKSON — The emergency radio system in Northampton County is receiving an upgrade to improve communications as the number of calls for service are increasing.

Last week, the Northampton County Board of Commissioners approved to upgrade the connectivity of the Jackson to Gaston leg of the radio repeater system.

Northampton County Communication Director Ronnie Storey, Jr. said the project will improve communications by switching from a T-1 Line to a microwave system.

The cost of the upgrade is $31,375 and will be completed by Radio Communications Company, a firm that installed, maintains and repairs the current system. The cost of the upgrade will be paid for by the county’s 911 fund.

According to information provided by Storey, since the switch to the new system, the T-Line from Jackson to Gaston has been experiencing problems with trunk jitter, water in the line, load interference and lightning strikes.

In the long run, Storey said, having the microwave system will save the county money with a one time cost and no monthly fees. Currently, the T-1 Line costs $1,213 per month or $14,556 per year.

“This upgrade will pay for itself in approximately two years,” he said.

As for replacing the T-1 Line that goes from Jackson to Woodland, Storey said that will be considered at a later date pending a current North Carolina Highway Patrol tower project.

“As long as the 911 funds are there use them,” said Commissioner Robert Carter.

Commissioner Chester Deloatch moved to approve the upgrade; it was seconded by Commission Vice Chair James Hester. The motion passed with no objection.

Storey noted to the commissioners that the communications center’s call volume is increasing steadily each month.

“Our EMS calls have almost increased by 1,000 from the previous year,” he said.

Storey attributed the increase in calls to the county’s population aging and the economy. He said people may be having to choose between purchasing their medication or groceries.

“I think the economy is so bad people are not taking their medication like they should,” he said.

Carter asked if Storey had enough staff to handle the increase in calls.

“Right now, we’re okay, but we’re going to need some more help (in the future),” responded Storey.

Storey said volunteer rescue squads from Woodland, Conway and Gaston are willing and have helped out when needed. He said the rescue squads have their own districts, but respond when they are needed by the county.

“I think things have really worked out well,” he said. “The volunteers have really stepped up to the plate.”