The Jackson County Board of Supervisors approved paying $153,734.68 for three new dispatch radio console systems Monday after the previous system began showing signs of failure due to overheating, causing multiple emergency committee meetings this week to resolve the issue.
A dispatch radio console system is used by dispatchers to page police, EMS and fire responders to emergencies throughout the county. The current system is 10 years old and runs on outdated Microsoft XP computers.
The dispatch console system in place now began showing signs of failure after it overheated earlier in the month.
“To me it looked like it just got hot. Maybe somebody had put something in front of it and blocked the cooling for the system,” Jackson County IT Director Kenneth Lechner said adding that everything on the computer appeared to be working properly. “There shouldn’t be any reason that it would overheat like that unless something was failing.”
Currently the computer that overheated is getting additional airflow from a box fan to try and nurse it through until the new system arrives.
“The way I understand it, we got more life out of it than would have been expected,” Mark Moan, Jackson County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy, said.
Since the current system is no longer supported by Microsoft, replacement parts to fix the issue are hard to come by.
“The number one thing you have to do with a dispatch center is make sure your computers have the current operating system supported by Microsoft because if you don’t, and then your computer fails, you can’t get a replacement,” Steve Dubberstein, BAYCOM director of engineering, said.
BAYCOM is a Motorola dealer in Wisconsin and is the company that won the bid for the new dispatch radio console systems the county decided to purchase.
The three new systems will be Motorola MCC7500 Dispatch Consoles which include many of the necessary tools like headsets and speakers that a dispatcher needs during a call. BAYCOM will also be responsible for installing the system and providing maintenance during the 1-year warranty period. Additional maintenance packages can also be purchased by the county in the future.
According to Dubberstein, Jackson County got a good deal from Motorola on the system with a $42,500 discount off of the state contract price.
BAYCOM approached Motorola asking if they would give Jackson County the same price they quoted Trempealeau County in 2015 for the same setup. At that time, a large discount was available on the system.
“This expired two years ago, but now is a time to buy something from a big company like Motorola because it is the end of the year and they want to make some sales,” Dubberstein said explaining how Jackson County got the good price.
Despite the great price, these expenses were not included in the 2018 budget. To compound the issue further, the Sheriff’s Department is also expected to make an additional large purchase in 2018 when it purchases a Next Gen 911 system. The current 911 system is also running on Microsoft XP computers.
“Sooner or later as the project takes its course with the county’s approval, we need to improve both operating systems and hardware to be up-to-date. Otherwise both systems—radio consoles that run the radios and the 911 receiving GIS and 911 information – if those don’t work I am dead in the water,” Jackson County Sheriff Duane Waldera said.
Even with the large discounts, the system was still more expensive than other quoted systems.
“One of the reasons this is being looked at very seriously and probably going to be made is that Motorola also owns two parts of our system already that we are utilizing,” Jackson County Board of Supervisors Chairman Ray Ransom said. “This did run a little higher than some of the other folks out there.”
Ultimately the Jackson County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the purchase.
“This is the equipment we didn’t replace when we did the $2 million radio system. We decided we’d do this in the future, which the future is now,” Jackson County Supervisor Jeff Amo said during an emergency Executive and Finance Committee meeting held Monday on the issue.
The new system is expected to take six to eight weeks to come in, so the county is looking for alternatives in case the current system does fail before that.
“We will not be able to operate if these systems fail,” Waldera said. “We are trying to work with our vendors to figure out if the worst case scenario happens, what we can do.”
Waldera said this could include borrowing a spare Microsoft XP computer.
According to Waldera, the new system will not affect the radio systems used by police, EMS and fire personnel.