Council gathers information on radio system

COLUMBIA CITY — Columbia City’s Common Council got a crash course in 800 MHz radios Tuesday night at its regular board meeting.Ted Hurley of J&K Communica-tions gave the board and the city’s various department heads a slide presentation on 800 MHz technology that’s sweeping the nation’s emergency response airwaves.According to Hurley, although Columbia City is still slightly behind the rest of the county in changing over to the 800 MHz system from the old VHF technology, it won’t matter for awhile anyway.Churubusco and South Whitley police departments are both completely changed over, as is the county’s sheriff’s department.At Columbia City, the town owns 10 mobile radios and a base unit and cross-band box located in the communications office.Hurley told the board Tuesday night that the system requires IDs for users.“The system holds 64,000 IDs,” he said, adding that more than 62,000 are already used up.He told the board that IDs are not currently available, but he added that the situation is temporary.“What I tell people is that if you get a grant, go ahead and get the radios because you’ll get IDs eventually,” he said.Hurley estimated new IDs would be available in 12 to 18 months.“They just started running out of IDs about 30 days ago,” he said.The city plans eventually to purchase 800 MHz radios for city public safety entities such as the fire department.The cross-band box is a device that allows translation between the 800 MHz systems and the current VHF system, which operates from 150-174 MHz.The portable units available to the police department were purchased with grant money.The radios were part of the same grant that purchased the equipment being used by county sheriff’s department personnel as well as the police departments of South Whitley and Churubusco.Hurley explained that since the state has a network statewide, it would allow anyone with an 800 MHz radio traveling outside the area on city or county business to communicate back to Whitley County.He added that it would enable better communication between not only city and county personnel, but also state departments such as Department of Natural Resources and Indiana State Police.Hurley told the board that 800 MHz technology divides users into “talk groups” — local, state and national.Around 1997, according to Hurley, Indiana formed the Hoosier SAFE-T System, beginning the process of converting to the new technology.“When 911 came around, they pumped a lot of money into the system,” he said.Hurley said there are 149 transmitter towers in Indiana and about 150,000 users.