The Hopkins County Fiscal Court accepted a $277,899 bid this week from VEI Communications to work on a project for the county EMA.

Hopkins County EMA Director Nick Bailey said the project will make improvements for the public safety radio system that all the first responders in the county use. The improvement will be focusing on Mortons Gap and the southern Hopkins County area working off the tower that is in the city to bring a fourth system location in the county.

According to Bailey, the system went live in 2015.

“When this project started, the whole idea was to bring all the public safety services onto the one system,” he said. “We had three systems going into it that got us nearly 90% of the county covered with mobile radios. We wanted to build it out to have roughly 90% coverage with portable radios too, which are the radios that the officers and firefighters carry.”

He said that the Mortons Gap and south Hopkins area are where there are some dead spots when it comes to the portable radios.

“Mobile radios are fine but you want an officer to be able to get away from their car and firefighters to get away from their truck,” said Bailey. “That is what the whole goal of this project is to get enhanced coverage in that area.”

According to Bailey, the trouble spots in the southern part of the county are large because of the geography.

“You have a ridge of hills that kill the signal coming from some of the other towers,” he said.

Bailey said the county now roughly has around 70% handheld coverage but said that this fourth location is going to get the system closer to the 90% range.

The use of handhelds has advanced over the years, Bailey said.

“It use to be that handhelds were pretty useless a couple of miles from the transmitters where now you can sit in Dawson Springs and talk on a hand held to someone in Madisonville,” he said. “That’s the big plus on this system that it allows that and it allows us to share the system because prior to this everyone had their own separate systems. All of the expense was going on but this brings everyone on one page.”

The time frame of this project is still being impacted because of COVID-19 and the supply chain, Bailey said.

“We already have our frequency license from the FCC,” he said. “The problem is that we are at the mercy fo COVID-19 … and getting the equipment is an issue.”

Bailey said the national shortage of semiconductors will impact when this project is completed.

“The goal is to have the project completed by June 2022, but it might not start until spring based on the availability of the semiconductors,” he said.

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