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Old 07-02-2013, 8:08 PM
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$550K Grant Will Move Greenfield to WISCOM Radio System - Police & Fire - Greenfield, WI Patch

After owning and operating its own emergency radio system for almost 30 years, the City of Greenfield is getting out of the radio business.

Instead, thanks to a $550,000 Homeland Security grant, Greenfield’s police and fire departments will migrate to the Wisconsin System for Interoperable Communications.

The grant will allow the state to build a WISCOM 800MHz radio system at the Greenfield Law Enforcement Center and use the existing 260-foot tower. The grant includes new state-of-the-art radio consoles for the Greenfield Emergency Dispatch Center and the replacement or reprogramming of all police and fire department radios.

"This grant is a windfall for the City of Greenfield. It allows our first responders to move to a brand new, cutting edge radio system that will offer huge advantages over our existing technology," Greenfield Police Chief Brad Wentlandt said.

With WISCOM, the city will only be responsible for the radios themselves and the state will maintain the system. Previously, the city was on the hook for maintenance and replacement of the system.

"If you compare it to owning a car, it's the difference between buying a car, maintaining it and then replacing it when it wears out versus someone giving you a car, paying for all the maintenance and only expecting you to pay for the gas," Wentlandt said.

Wentlandt estimated the new system will save the city $50,000 annually, not to mention the $1.5 million a future replacement system would have likely cost.

WISCOM allows emergency responders across the state to seamlessly communicate during a major disaster, dramatically increases the communications capacity currently provided by conventional mutual aid channels, and saves taxpayer dollars by sharing a common infrastructure, Wentlandt said.

The shared WISCOM system creates a communications capacity previously non-existent in Wisconsin. It is designed to operate with existing radio systems, and is flexible and open enough to work with the many different local and regional systems currently operating in the state. WISCOM can also be expanded to accommodate more channels, and local agencies may find it cost-effective to discontinue maintaining their local systems and use WISCOM for all of their daily radio traffic.

To achieve WISCOM, the state leveraged 80 existing state-owned communication towers and other infrastructure, and made use of longer-range VHF frequencies, which require fewer tower sites to cover the state. Wisconsin modified existing radio towers owned and maintained by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources by installing WISCOM equipment on their 80 tower sites as well as other related equipment.

In addition to the statewide VHF system, several areas of the state have 800MHz overlay sites to serve users in areas where 800MHz systems already exist.

Wentlandt and Fire Chief Jon Cohn have been working closely to ensure the move to WISCOM maintains existing communication capabilities with other agencies.

"Even though we're moving forward, we have to make sure we don't leave anyone behind," said Cohn, who added the ability to communicate with other agencies is important given the level of cooperation and response between agencies.

WISCOM will allow Greenfield units to travel anywhere in the state and communicate with dispatch as if the were a few blocks away.

"WISCOM has tremendous potential for mutual aid applications," Cohn added.
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