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City dodges costly police radio upgrade, for now

POSTED August 28, 2012 10:45 p.m.

A failing Turlock Police radio system which could have cost $3 million to upgrade was instead repaired for just $10,000, Turlock City Council members learned Tuesday.

“It's good news,” Police Chief Rob Jackson said. “We don't have to spend $3 million on a radio system right now.”

Council members first learned of the failing radio system during a special Jan. 24 workshop. At that point, then-Interim Police Chief David Young told council the radio system’s controller unit – essentially the brain of the system – was broken.

Replacing the unit was thought to cost nearly $200,000, in part because provider Motorola no longer manufactures the unit. With the help of a Motorola sales representative, Turlock was able to find a third-party supplier with a new-in-box controller, untouched since its construction in the 1990s, for just $10,000.

Though Turlock was able to avoid the larger expenditure, the city will still be required to pay $225,000 to relocate its radio system to the new Public Safety Facility. That cost was budgeted for, and included in the facility’s $33.6 million price tag.

And in the near future, Turlock will likely be forced to upgrade its radio system. In 2018, Motorola will officially stop supporting the model of radio used by Turlock police, fire, and municipal services, which also supports police in Ceres and at California State University, Stanislaus.

The upgrade won’t be cheap, as Turlock’s existing system uses antiquated analog technology, incompatible with the digital systems currently for sale. Those “Project 25”-spec digital systems allow for better coverage, clearer communication, and improved interoperability between agencies, but upgrading Turlock’s entire system will cost as much as $3 million.

Jackson recommended Turlock begin planning now for 2018, budgeting for replacement. A new system could be expected to last between 15 and 20 years.

The particulars of that future system remain uncertain; Turlock potentially can save money by joining with Stanislaus Regional 911 in a countywide radio system, or new technology could be developed which drastically reduces the costs of a radio system.

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