York County's emergency radio system now is up and running. And, thankfully, the bitter dispute about paying for it appears to be a thing of the past.
All parties were amicable as the county's new 800 MHz radio system was officially launched last week. Police, firefighters, rescue squads and other agencies now can communicate with each other using an integrated system that works countywide.
But getting there was not easy. The dispute first started brewing in 2004, when the county announced its intentions to purchase the $23 million system, and at points along the way, it appeared that chances of a compromise were hopeless.
The county had found itself at odds with cities, fire departments, rescue squads, law enforcement agencies and other safety services that were on the list to be served by the system. The sticking point was a proposal to charge them all monthly fees of $48 per radio to help defray the overall cost.
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But cities and agencies balked, saying they had not budgeted for the extra cost and that the cost had ended up being higher than first predicted. The County Council tried offering a compromise -- waiving the fee for 30 months so budgets could be adjusted -- but cities and agencies didn't budge.
In February, the council relented and agreed to pick up the entire tab for the new system. The move came after York County Sheriff Bruce Bryant, Rock Hill Police Chief John Gregory and Solicitor Kevin Brackett appeared before the council to plead for a resolution to the dispute.
The decision was a tough one for the council, but it broke the long stalemate and allowed emergency agencies throughout the county the chance to communicate on the same frequency.
The new system will be a boon to public safety and security. It will allow easy communication among agencies within the network.
That has not been possible until now. For example, earlier this year, York police had trouble setting up a perimeter with county deputies at the site of a York stabbing because officers couldn't communicate.
In March, during a fire at the Rick Ford dealership in Clover, communication among the eight fire departments fighting the blaze was difficult because some departments were using the new system and others weren't.
We applaud local leaders, agency heads and especially the members of the County Council who approved the agreement to pay for the system. Now, emergency response on the part of all will be better coordinated, and lives no doubt will be saved as a result.
Decision by county to pay for new emergency radio system was crucial to its success.
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