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County OKs voice for Williston PD

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By Lou Elliott Jones

For the first time Williston Police Department officers and the Levy County Sheriff’s deputies will be able to communicate seamlessly and it only cost $2,077.37 for the solution to a problem that has put a wall of silence between their two radio systems.

While it will not bring down the wall entirely ó as both agencies use different bands for communication ó it will lower the bar.

“This will allow us to talk with Williston officers for the first time,” said Sheriff’s Lt. Scott Finnen who helped work out the solution with the county’s communications contractor Williams Communications of Tallahassee.

In his agenda item summary, Finnen wrote, “WPD is the only public safety agency in the county that is not on the SLERS (Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System) radio network. This causes a huge issue in the Williston area for the safety of the Williston area citizens in the event of a large scale emergency.”

Williston Police Chief Dennis Strow, in a letter to the commission, said theere is limited to no portable coverage within his city limits. 

Finnen said the system is a “patch” that will assist first responders ó police, fire and rescue workers ó with effective communication. He explained that a portable radio, like those used by deputies, has been retooled into a “base station” 

“It’s basically a car radio in a fancy box,” Finnel said. “It will give them effective communication.” He said an officer in the field can tell the dispatcher they want to talk directly with the other agency and “the dispatcher can take a couple of mouse clicks” and the officers can communicate. 

Chief Strow said the new system will not guarantee “in building” coverage.” The chief indicated in his letter to the commission that Williams Communications will be installing an antenna for the base unit that is stronger than those on the portable units. 

And he indicated it will not solve the problem on the east side of the city where a repeater atenna is needed. “But at least we can monitor what the sheriff’s office is doing and provide protection.”

“This would not be a final solution to our interoperability dilemma and although it is not a perfect solution, it will provide a great improvement,” the chief wrote in his letter.

The $18 per month maintenance fee for the radio will be paid by the city if Williston. The money for the radio station will be coming out of the communications fund once the county has been assured it is covered for maintenance and insurance for its own radios.