County dispatch center completes narrow-band conversionBy Tony Reaves, Staff Writer Sun Journal July 21, 2011
PARIS — The county's upgrade to narrow-band communication was finished on schedule last week, about a year and a half before the federal deadline for communication centers to upgrade.
On July 11, the county converted the last of its towers, Pleasant Mountain, to a narrow-band signal. Pleasant Mountain, in southern Oxford County, serves Fryeburg, Denmark and several other towns.
It was a long struggle to complete the project, Oxford County Regional Communications Director James Miclon said. Ongoing FCC licensing problems and early resistance among some departments kept him busy.
In May, he received funding from the Maine Emergency Management Agency to hire on a narrow-band coordinator for six months to help with the project. Miclon chose Woodstock Fire Chief Geff Inman.
“This wouldn't have been as smooth without Geff,” Miclon said. Inman worked with individual departments to help them acquire narrow-band radios and helped to train them on the new equipment.
Inman said the upgrade has come with new features. Departments can opt to use an identifier, so that if a call comes through that is unclear, dispatchers will be able to tell who sent the message and try to contact them by radio or phone.
For months, three of the county's mountaintop communication towers have been broadcasting both wide and narrow-band signals to accommodate agencies that hadn't yet switched.
As the upgrades moved from mountain to mountain, Miclon said he leveraged obsolete equipment to help pay for the upgrades. “Anything that was trade-able or replaceable, we did,” he said.
In 2004, the federal government mandated that all communication centers switch to narrow-band by Jan. 1, 2013.
The total cost, including legal fees, eventually went over the $289,000 he received in federal grants, and he has had to dip into his department's maintenance funding at times, he said.
Miclon said the project was completed so quickly because of the licensing costs involved in using both wide and narrow-band frequencies, and because the $289,000 grant expires in August.
There's still work to be done in Lincoln and Magalloway plantations, which are beyond the reach of local towers and have their own dispatch centers, and Inman said he is working with responders there to switch them to narrow-band.