Police radio system a Springdale budget topic

Posted: November 7, 2017 at 1 a.m.

SPRINGDALE -- Springdale is considering switching to the same emergency radio system as the Arkansas State Police at an estimated cost of more than $1.7 million, the city council heard Monday at a meeting over the city's budget and bond financing plans.

The $1.7 million would include adding radio towers to existing city water towers and other purchases of fixed equipment that can be financed by a planned city bond issue, if voters approve, Mayor Doug Sprouse and police Chief Mike Peters told the council. The council's Finance Committee met at 5:30 p.m. Monday to consider items to place on a proposed city bond issue that would go to the voters early next year.

The bond proposal would pay off earlier city bond debt if voters approve in a special election. Sprouse said the election is likely for some date in February if the council approves. Voters could accept or reject issuing bonds for each of several categories. For instance, the biggest portion, an estimated $81.1 million, would go to street improvements. Another $38 million in bonds would go to a new criminal justice center and renovating the city's administration building under another portion of the proposal. The new radio system would be included in that portion.

Other, separate proposals subject to voter approval include $36 million to pay off existing debt, $19.5 million to park projects, $15.6 million for three new fire stations, and $5.2 million for an animal shelter. In all, the bond issue would amount to an estimated $195.4 million

In addition to the bond-financed portion, other expenses for the proposed new radio system such as hand-held radios for police, firefighters and other emergency personnel would be required. Such portable, personal equipment cannot be bond financed under state law although the radios in patrol cars and other emergency vehicles can be, Peters told the council.

Peters is seeking estimates for the needed additional equipment and will report a total figure to the council at a later date he said. Sprouse said the best estimate at this time for a total cost is, including the $1.7 million financed by bonds and the additional equipment that cannot be, is more than $2.5 million.

The current radio system has distortions and interruptions of signals in portions of the city that have defied attempts to fix, Sprouse and Peters told the council. "Every time we do something to fix one problem, it seems like it creates two more," Peters said. The police department and the system's supplier has worked on different fixes for a year and a half, the chief said.

The new system being considered is the Arkansas Wireless Information Network, or AWIN. Adopting that system would allow seamless communication with both the state police and with Fayetteville emergency responders, since that city adopted the same system years ago, the council was told.

Council members reminded both the mayor and the police chief that this would be the third radio system the city has had in the last decade or so, and demanded some assurance from current users of the system such as the state police and other cities that this one would work. Peters said he would get such written assurance or anything else the council requests.

NW News on 11/07/2017