The Boardman Police communications system is up and running this week. Last week, technicians set up the radios to work off the new digital system.
Police Chief Jack Nichols said last week was chaotic as a lot was happening all at once. On Jan. 31, the new phone system at the Boardman Police Station was installed as well as the new connections for the 9-1-1 system. He said Austintown, who had joined to form a Council of Governments was first to go online with the new radio system because they had no backup system. Boardman was scheduled for last week and the new radios were in use by Monday, Feb. 4.
The new system works off two towers, but using a new digital airwave that can handle up to 450 mobile and portable radios. He said in previous years, the old system handled calls a lot different.
"In the old system, a call would go from a handheld [radio] to the tower, then to a repeater," he said. "The repeater would change the frequency then broadcast it."
The new system is much faster. The call is placed on a handheld radio, which is instantly sent to the new system that uses the digital frequency. In less time than it takes to blink an eye, the new system finds one of 450 separate frequencies to connect the call.
Nichols said a test of the new system was conducted recently to see how it handled dead zones. He said there were some spots in the township where an officers hand-held radio would not work well. Not only did the new system work everywhere in the township, it also sent clear signals as far as Columbiana County.
He said the system can also be expanded by adding one more frequency. That would allow for up to 1,100 mobile and portable radios to function at the same time, without interrupting one another.
Nichols said the new system is something the federal government is requiring police departments to do by 2014. New narrow-band digital systems could have cost Boardman and Austintown police departments $1.7 million each. By combining, and forming the COG, they were able to go with one system. With the 450 digital spots available, the two townships had far more connections than they would possibly need for now.
One nice thing about the new radio system is the fact the COG can add more neighboring departments. In fact, Nichols said Mill Creek MetroPark Police will be going live this week, after Boardman is up and running. While they won't be sharing directly in the COG, they have in essence become customers. They will pay a fee to the COG for use of the new system and that fee will go towards system maintenance.
Nichols said the entire system for Boardman was paid for through three grants and money confiscated in drug raids.
"It is a freebie for Boardman Township residents," Nichols said. "It's not costing them a penny."