Police radio system issues persist

HOT SPRINGS – The Hot Springs Police Department moved its radio traffic from the analog trunked system that had supported its communications for more than a quarter century to a digital platform earlier this spring, completing the migration from the city to the Arkansas Wireless Information Network.

But the city said the move to the state-run 700-800 MHz digital microwave-based interoperable communications system used by more than 900 federal, state and local agencies hasn’t closed the gaps in stubborn coverage downtown and elsewhere.

The microwave dish that Motorola installed in the tower of the Army and Navy General Hospital three years ago promised to bridge the gap from downtown, providing a strategic perch to spread the radio signals in and out of the hard-to-reach area of ​​the upper and lower center. Park walkways.

But the state abandoned the building, announcing in May 2019 the end of the residential employment and vocational placement program for young adults with disabilities that the building had housed since 1960.

The city planned to move the repeater to the West Mountain city-county microwave relay site, asking the Hot Springs board of directors last spring to pass a resolution in support of an order to $642,312 amendment to the $5 million contract the city entered into with Motorola in November 2017.

But the item was taken off the agenda after Motorola told the city that moving to West Mountain would void coverage guarantees for the 100-700 block of Central Avenue, National Park College, the Hot Springs Convention Center , Bank OZK Arena, Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa and Lakeside and Langston Elementary Schools.

“We’ve done several studies to try to figure out how we’re going to get dogleg on Central and how we’re going to increase our coverage in the Lakeside area,” City Manager Bill Burrough said Tuesday.

The consent agenda for the May 3 council business meeting includes a ground lease agreement with the Lakeside School District for a microwave repeater site. The 150-foot Monopoly proposed for the north end of campus will be a key node in the city’s AWIN infrastructure.

“It’s the best to serve Lakeside and serve the surrounding areas,” Fire Chief Ed Davis told the board on Tuesday. “Many investigations have been done, from how the microwave would work in the microwave ring we have established and how it will project signals to different radios that might work in adjacent space.”

The city expressed concern about AWIN’s limited downtown reach before the council awarded Motorola the contract for the communications upgrade. The Confederate Monument rally held downtown in August 2017 showed the limitations of AWIN, as Arkansas State Police personnel had difficulty communicating on their AWIN radios.

Installing a repeater in the hospital tower was seen as the solution, providing a main communication point for the city center and Malvern Avenue and a key part of the microwave chain linking the city at the heart of AWIN’s communications in Little Rock.

“AWIN communications are better than they were before we installed our system,” Davis said. “There are still areas we need to improve within the system. The loss of (the hospital tower) was a very critical loss for the system. It’s nothing that can’t be fixed with good engineering, time and money.”

The city said about $1.6 million remains of the more than $6 million it has set aside for the communications project. The €2.6 million property tax the city levied in tax years 2016 and 2017 provided $3.54 million for the project, corporate accounts such as water funds , sewage and solid waste from the city paying the balance.

The police was the last city service to fully migrate to AWIN. Agents communicated on analog and digital systems during the pre-migration period. They switched between networks, as both were programmed into the P25-compatible, dual-band APX radios the department received as part of the city’s contract with Motorola.

The city’s enhancements to its 911 call center have allowed police to join other city departments as full-time AWIN users. The switchover allows users to access more channels and transponders than the city’s old trunked system provided.

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