Sheriff addressing council about radio upgrades

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Retter: Small towns still will be able to communicate with sheriff’s office

Wayne County Sheriff Randy Retter hopes to reduce what he believes is confusion about new communication technology coming to the county.

Saying that “nothing is really changing from the way it is now” regarding radio communication between county and smaller town first responders, Retter was to meet with Centerville town council this week to address any concerns. Council’s regular monthly meeting occurred after press time for this edition.

County officials approved a purchase of new radios for the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office earlier this year at a cost of close to $500,000.

Retter told Western Wayne News that the radios currently used by Wayne County Sheriff’s Office are about 15 years old and they are no longer supported by their manufacturer. The ability for repairs is limited, if not impossible, he said.

The new radios were ordered in mid-summer, with a delivery date anticipated about six months later. “We were fortunate we could get all of ours done at once – they’re starting to break down and fail pretty quickly,” Retter said.

For some, the change has prompted questions. Centerville Police Chief Ed Buchholz raised concerns during a previous council meeting about the upgrade. He was worried about the ability for smaller police departments to be able to communicate with the sheriff’s office once those radios go into use, since CPD and others may not have the budget available for new radios at this time.

“We (as a county) are not changing radio systems,” said Matthew Cain, director of Wayne County’s Emergency Communications and Emergency Management. “It is the same system with new advancements and new technology. Continuing the interoperable radio communications between all public safety agencies is first and foremost in all of our planning and projects that we have…. and this one is no different. We simply are starting conversations early so our small-town departments (with smaller budgets) can begin to plan, prepare, and apply for potential grants to assist with funding.”

Wayne County dispatchers upgraded their system a couple of years ago, and Richmond Police Department has been phasing in new radios for officers as their budget allows, Retter said.

WCSO already has select encrypted frequencies that can’t be picked up by the public or radios without access. Those have been used occasionally for “case integrity” and special operations.

Retter said WCSO’s new radios do have upgraded technology that gives the department more communication options, but it doesn’t mean all frequencies would be unavailable to the old radios. Even if different frequencies are used, Retter said first responders can communicate through dispatch or adjust to use shared frequencies if needed.

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