A much needed upgrade was done to the radio system for Ford County that covers Dodge City police, fire, public works and Ford County sheriff, fire and road and bridge.

The upgrade pushes the current radio system to 800 megahertz that makes radio communication clearer, increasing the coverage capacity.

"We have threes sites that we put in place with a partnership to the state's system that is run by Kansas Department of Transportation," Ford County Communications director Elliot Linke said. "That are located in Bucklin, Spearville and south Dodge City as part of a partnership with KDOT.

"They had the best system in place and we were able to add onto it."

The project was $3.6 million but because it became a partnership with the state, the county was able to save $8 million.

One of the key reasons for the upgrade was safety for the community.

For example, when an officer had to enter Walmart and was in the back of the store, that officer would not be able to communicate on their handheld radio.

This upgrade fixes that.

Not only does it fix in town communication but also makes it to where communication can be done throughout the state.

"We had a jailer that was transporting an inmate and was able to reach us from 90 miles away," Linke said. "It is that good."

The upgrade also puts the county in the driver seat when looking towards the future.

Currently the new radios come fire resistant as well as with a club for fire units.

Within 2 years, Linke said, fire units will be equipped with Blue Tooth radios put into the face pieces for fire fighters.

"That way they can talk to each other more clearly."

The system will also become equipped with GPS for law enforcement vehicles and handhelds.

"Map units using the radios will assist us in assigning calls to the closest officer," Linke said. "If a call comes in near Bucklin, we will be able to see which officer is closest to dispatch them.

"And if they get out of the car on say a foot chase, we will be able to track them through their handheld.

"The best part is that it will be all on one system.

"It became how could we do more with less. We didn't want to create bloat and wanted to be able to optimize the existing staff to simplify tasks.

"We will be creating a data sharing and transferring program through our CAD that will cut down on manually required transmission of data.

"It is forward thinking and puts us ahead of where technology is heading."

Ford County Sheriff Bill Carr added, "I firmly believe this new communications system will make Ford County a safer community for both citizens and all first responders. Thank you to everyone involved in bringing this project from concept to reality.

"The new 800 MHz system has been designed with the capacity to meet the diverse needs of the users with one compatible radio network. It will also provide sufficient capacity to meet the growth needs of Ford County; it will provide the coverage capabilities essential to public safety/services; it has a high likelihood of surviving a natural disaster for the delivery of reliable service and it will provide direct communications between multiple jurisdictions to better meet mutual response needs during single incidents or during a disaster."

Regarding the radios, Dodge City Police Deputy Chief Jerad Goertzen said, "This new system is more reliable. We have the ability to transmit more consistently and accurately.

"There were many safety concerns with the old system with not being able to transmit.

"The new system and radios have many features that make the officers and public safer."

To contact the writer email vmarshall@dodgeglobe.com