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Mitchells dispatchers upgrading radios

After a decade of use, Mitchell Dispatch's radio system is getting an upgrade. The city of Mitchell is seeking bids to replace a three-console radio system used by law enforcement dispatchers to communicate with officers in six counties, as the c...

Mitchell Communication Specialist Jerry Fradet answers a call in January 2016 at the Mitchell Public Safety building in this Daily Republic file photo. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Mitchell Communication Specialist Jerry Fradet answers a call in January 2016 at the Mitchell Public Safety building in this Daily Republic file photo. (Matt Gade / Republic)

After a decade of use, Mitchell Dispatch's radio system is getting an upgrade.

The city of Mitchell is seeking bids to replace a three-console radio system used by law enforcement dispatchers to communicate with officers in six counties, as the consoles are becoming increasingly costly and difficult to repair.

"The current system we're running on is 10 years old. It's probably time," said Marlene Haines, communications supervisor for the Mitchell Department of Public Safety.

Mitchell Dispatch generally keeps two or three dispatchers on duty at a time, and each one sits behind a console with multiple screens.

The new consoles and supporting technology will replace three old consoles after 10 years of service. Haines said three dispatching consoles were purchased in October 2007, but after spending about $5,300 in repairs in 2016 and struggling to find replacement parts for the outdated system, the department realized it was time for a change.

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"We had some repairs going on that were getting expensive. Small things started to fail in it, and with the age that the system was, it was harder to get parts for it," Haines said.

Haines estimated the new consoles will cost around $150,000 or $160,000, but they should require less maintenance and fewer repairs.

A new system will also allow for growth. The project specifications released by the city require the system to support up to 80 consoles that can be placed in multiple locations, but Haines said that many won't be necessary in Mitchell.

But Haines said the biggest difference is the change from analog to a Voice Over Internet Protocol system, which uses the internet to communicate, so a better backup situation could be in place if the center ever has to be evacuated.

Although the city's posting labeled the project as an upgrade to the E911 communications system, Haines said that's not entirely accurate. The program that receives 911 calls will remain unchanged. The upgrades affect radio calls made from dispatchers to officers, not telephone calls from the public to the dispatch center.

As with any new technology, Haines said the dispatchers may have to adjust to small changes after the transition, but she expects the new system to be more user-friendly, require minimal training and be more reliable.

The city started requesting bids on its website on Jan. 24, and it will continue accepting bids until 1:30 p.m. on Feb. 13, according to the posting.

Mitchell Finance Office Michelle Bathke said that's when the City Council will open the bids and start considering which one to accept. She said a decision could be made at the following City Council meeting on Feb. 21, but the city has 45 days after opening before it must select a bid.

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The price, too, will remain unknown until the bids are opened, but Bathke said $175,000 has been set aside in the budget for the project.

That's a little higher than console costs in 2007, when Bathke said the city spent approximately $120,000 for three consoles.

Haines said Sioux Falls Two-Way Radio Service, a provider of Motorola radios and consoles, supplied the dispatch center with its current system. She thinks they are likely to submit a bid this time, too.

Related Topics: RADIO
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