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City moves to 800 MHz radios
System has been in the works for a few years
city 800 mhz radios
The Great Bend Fire and Police departments will move to an 800 MHz radio system following purchases approved by the City Council Monday night.

City parks, public restrooms to open Tuesday

Great Bend City Council meeting at a glance

Here is a quick look at what the Great Bend City Council did Monday night:

• Heard a COVID-19 response update from City Administrator Kendal Francis.

On Monday, the city moved into its phase 2, opening most city facilities to public access. However, the council voted Monday night to go open all city playgrounds and restrooms as of Tuesday ahead of the original plan which would have opened them later this month.

• Approved four community development block grant applications. These were for A440 Music, Granny’s Kitchen, Mizumi K Sushi and Joyful House Inc. This leaves $6,780 in the city fund.

All are for $15,000 and all are for working capital. Working capital is defined as salaries/wages, inventory purchase, utilities, rent, insurance payments, etc.

They are also all three-year loans at .5% interest, and they have the option of making interest only payments for 12-months. They all meet the requirements for job retention and the low to moderate income restrictions.

This is a Kansas Department of Commerce program federally funded through the United States Department of Agriculture.

• Approved looking into applying for two new Community Development Block Grant funding opportunities. These would provide micro grants to qualifying entities.

The first is a $100,000 grant that would be for non-profits that provide meals to those who are low to moderate income. The other is for $300,000 and would be for grants to businesses, much like the CDBG program the city already has.

There will be a public hearing on the matters at 6:30 p.m. Monday, June 15, prior to the council meeting. Should the city move forward, there would have to be a resolution authorizing the applications.

• Approved the purchase of mini skid-steer loader for the Street Department.

In 2020, the Street Department has budgeted $155,000 for a backhoe. Now, they feel the backhoe does not match their needs, said Jason Cauley assistant public works director. So they requested three bids for a mini excavator and skid-steer loader.

He recommended going with Bobcat at a bid total of $124,669.33. This is the high bid by $8,000, but Cauley said they will see cost savings with the additional attachments that are provided.

They are also trading in two pieces of equipment that total $18,000. So, the total purchase price comes to $106,669.33.  

• Approved the purchase of 800 MHz radios for the police and fire departments.

• Approved a staff vehicles replacement for Fire Department.

The department is currently budgeting for the replacement of a staff vehicle in 2020, Fire Chief Luke McCormick said. They obtained bids from Marmies for half-ton ton Dodge, Ford and Chevy. 

The government pricing and current incentives would allow them to purchase the Dodge 1500 for $25,780, with trade in allowance of $10,600 for an actual purchase price of $15,180, McCormick said. And, the current pricing and incentives would allow us to replace a second staff vehicle in 2020 with a trade. 

Parks Department Director Scott Keeler has requested that instead of trading a GBFD 2004 Dodge pickup, he would transfer funds from the Park Department to cover the trade-in allowance, McCormick said. The 2004 Dodge Dakota would work well for him in the Parks Department. 

The government pricing and current incentives would allow us to purchase the Dodge 1500 for $25,780. The Fire Department will fund the second truck for $24,820 and use the Parks Department $960 to cover the rest.  

So, both are being bought for $40,960 from Marmies.

• Heard an economic development report from Councilwoman Jolene Biggs on behalf of Great Bend Economic Development Inc. President Jessica Milsap.

• Heard departmental update from Francis.

On Monday, the city moved into its phase 2, opening most city facilities to public access. However, the council voted Monday night to go open all city playgrounds and restrooms as of Tuesday ahead of the original plan which would have opened them later this month.

The City of Great Bend took the next step towards improved communications for its first responders as the City Council approved the purchase of 800 MHz radio for the police and fire departments, the costs of which was over $550,000.

“As we dove into this project, we knew it would take a few years to set the money aside,” said Fire Chief Luke McCormick. The project itself has been a few years in the make as well.

In January 2018, the Barton County Sheriff’s Office announced it would switch its operations to the 800 MHz system using the State of Kansas 800 radio tower north of Great Bend, McCormick said. Barton County Communication Director Dena Popp announced the plan for all agencies to hopefully switch by 2020.

Under the county Communications Department plan, the first step was to work with Motorola Engineers to determine the required infrastructure. The second step was to switch all county law enforcement by end of 2019, except for the Great Bend Police Department. 

The third step was for all county fire and emergency medical services agencies to switch by the end of 2020 or 2021, with the GBPD switching at the same time.

Over the past two years, McCormick and Police Chief David Bailey have worked with Aaron Corcoran at Motorola Solutions of Great Bend to determine the specifications for the city’s 800 radios, he said. 

Corcoran was able to utilize special pricing and, due to COVID-19, he was able to secure an additional 5% discount of $28,137.61. 

The purchase price for the Fire and Police department 800 radios is $534,614.60. The pagers for the Fire Department will cost $21,088.50, bringing the total purchase price of $555,703.10 from Motorola Solutions. 

This covers 40 radios each for both departments for vehicles and stations, plus base stations, batteries chargers, other accessories, upgrades and support. In addition, the installation of the radios in the Police and Fire Department vehicles will cost another $15,000. 

The city has been setting aside funds for the 800 radios since 2017 with $818,000 available, McCormick said.  

McCormick said the current UHF radios used by the Fire and Police departments are over 15 years old. The life expectancy of public safety radios is 8 to 10 years and they have started to experience an increase in radio repairs and failures. 

The 800 MHz radio frequency is a digital system and the current UHF radios are not compatible, he said. 

The 800 MHz system is designed for inoperability of communications across the state. It is also compatible with other agencies in the state, enabling them to communicate with local agencies during mutual aid or statewide disasters.

There are some dead spots in the county, and statewide, but the state has 98 percent coverage.

“We broke this down to what we really need,” McCormick said. There are other bells and whistles that could be added later.

As a side note, he said those with home scanners will have to upgrade their scanners to 800 MHz as well.