New Radio advisory committee established
WORTHINGTON -- Thirteen counties and two cities have entered into a joint powers agreement to provide governance for the new statewide public safety radio system within the region. The newly formed Southwest Minnesota Regional Radio Board will work with all public agencies in the area to provide interoperable communications between agencies.
The board will have its inaugural meeting Sept. 18, with a ceremonial meeting at 1 p.m., followed by a business meeting at 2 p.m. at the Lyon County Law Enforcement Center in Marshall.
The regional board includes the City of Worthington, along with Cottonwood, Jackson, Murray, Nobles, Pipestone and Rock Counties, plus seven other counties and the City of Marshall. Committee Vice-Chair is Worthington Public Safety Director Mike Cumiskey.
The regional radio board will represent the interests of southwest Minnesota to the Minnesota Statewide Radio Board as the build-out of a statewide radio network called the Allied Radio Matrix for Emergency Response (ARMER) continues to grow.
"The whole goal is that we all be able to talk directly to each other," Cumiskey said. "Right now we can only talk to each other directly through dispatch."
The State of Minnesota has been working toward interoperability for some time, but in the aftermath of 9/11, the process was sped up.
"Right now, law enforcement has the ability to talk on everyone's frequencies, but if fire departments and public utilities wanted to talk, they would all have to go to one channel," Cumiskey explained. "Right now, some use VHF and some use 800 megahertz."
The board will have access to grant money, which could be used to purchase radios, to put up towers and upgrade equipment.
The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 directed the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to establish and implement a $1 billion grant program to assist public safety agencies in the acquisition, deployment of or training for the use of interoperable communications systems. The Public Safety Interoperable Communications (PSIC) Grant Program was designed to complement other federal interoperable communications grant programs. Minnesota received $14,262,071, some of which is being allocated to regional radio boards.
"The PSIC funds were used for a state-hired consultant who will go to each county and city and look at their radio equipment," Cumiskey said.
Interagency communication has historically been a challenge for public safety departments because of the different radio platforms in use. Representatives from the region have been working together for nearly a year as the Southwest Minnesota Regional Advisory Committee to lay the groundwork for the radio board.