County takes step to join regional first responder network

Posted 2/11/20

Madison County first responders may soon break out of communication breakdowns, as County Commissioners Monday agreed to proceed with joining the Brazos Valley Wide Area Communications System.

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County takes step to join regional first responder network

Posted

Madison County first responders may soon break out of communication breakdowns, as County Commissioners Monday agreed to proceed with joining the Brazos Valley Wide Area Communications System.

The BVWACS, a partnership between cities, counties and Texas A&M University, operates a seven-site public safety trunked radio system that links law enforcement entities, fire departments and medical crews across a wider area than possible before.

For Madison County, it will also eradicate existing “dead zones” where radio and other communications fail from lack of connection.

“We have a system that’s failing us now,” said Shelly Butts, Madison County emergency management coordinator. “We’re currently at level three and we need to be on level five. And it’s an old level three.”

Joining the BVWACS will cost the county $15,000-16,000 initially for radios and other equipment, and a later payment estimated around $45,000 for a connection to a microwave tower.

The tower itself, though, may not cost the county a dime. The Texas Department of Public Safety may pay for the costs involved in erecting the new tower, essential to facilitate communications across the Brazos Valley.

“The almost $400,000 repeater that the DPS is going to give us is a big step,” County Judge Tony Leago told commissioners in their regular meeting Monday. “We may get an antenna on the east side of the county for free. It’s a real possibility.”

The system would replace an aging county communications infrastructure, including dispatch panels and upgrade computer dispatch systems. The network would enable Madison County first responders to immediately connect with colleagues in Walker County or Brazos County.

“Literally, with the push of a button,” Butts told commissioners. The current system requires a chain of phone calls between dispatchers, with messages getting muddied along the way, she said.

Monday’s vote approved a petition for the county to join BVWACS, the first step required in the process. Later, more accurate cost estimates will be brought to Commissioners’ Court for approval.

“Every way to save money on this that’s humanly possible is being pursued,” Leago said.

In other moves Monday, Commissioners agreed to award a $10,000 contract to have Generator Supercenter in Tomball repair the County Courthouse Annex generator. The generator was discovered to have a faulty transfer switch during stormy weather that knocked out power in Madisonville.

“The storm blew in on a Friday night,” Leago said. “I came in on Saturday and the generator was kicked on, but there was no power to the building.”

An earlier generator repair company identified the problem, but never reported to perform the work. One of the three quotes gathered by the county for the repair included the replacement of the generator itself, something Generator Supercenter told officials was unneccesary.

The county will also enter into a contract to provide annual maintenance in hopes of keeping power on in the Annex continuously.

“That generator is vital,” Leago said.

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