City of LaGrange discusses upgrading 911 system

Published 9:00 am Wednesday, August 24, 2022

During the LaGrange City Council work session on Tuesday morning, the city discussed proposed plans to update and replace the current countywide public safety communication system.

Information Technology Director Alan Slaughenhaupt gave an overview of options considered for updating the 911 system that saw its last substantial upgrade in 2016. The system is only in its sixth year, but it’s relatively old by emergency communication system standards, he said.

Some components in the current system are more than 20 years old. Slaughenhaupt noted that when components in the system fail and are not serviceable, it’s often difficult to find replacements.

The software is also more than six years old. It’s still being updated for necessary repairs, but nothing further. Software enhancements and some fixes are unavailable.

The proposal would change the current countywide 800 MHz radio system from multicast to a simulcast system. Slaughenhaupt said that the simulcast system — which transmits signals from all towers on the same frequency simultaneously rather than on multiple frequencies — would be better for getting signals into buildings. Having the same signal coming in from different angles and different sides will help it penetrate buildings.

The proposal also calls for three new tower sites to be added to the system. New towers would be added in Southeast Troup County, Liberty Hill in Northwest Troup County, and the “Boy Scout Hill” tower would be moved out of Harris County into Troup County.

Motorola was the low bidder for the total system and a five-year maintenance contract at total cost of $5,315,932. That price does not include any new towers, which could cost upwards of $500,000 each.

The system will include new 911 consoles and voice recording systems, but current radios in vehicles and portable units will not need to be replaced.

The overall plan with the proposed new towers would dramatically increase radio coverage within the City of LaGrange and unincorporated Troup County, Slaughenhaupt said. However, Hogansville and West Point would not be included in the system. West Point has operated its own 911 system for years, but Hogansville, which uses the current system, has opted out of participating with the county and LaGrange to upgrade their system, according to discussion at the meeting. Hogansville can still be patched into the new system but doing so takes up one of the system’s six available channels, which then cannot be used for other purposes. Currently, the county answers and dispatches 911 calls for unincorporated Troup County, the City of LaGrange, and the City of Hogansville.

When 911 calls are made from Hogansville, they are then rerouted back to the city to locally dispatch, Slaughenhaupt said. The City of West Point handles its own 911 calls.

Officials from LaGrange and the county advised that they negotiated with both Hogansville and West Point to split the costs of the upgrade, with Troup and LaGrange contributing upwards of 90 percent of the costs, but they were unable to come to an agreement to include the cities.

It’s believed that Hogansville ultimately wants to run its own 911 system and fire department but calls to Interim City Manager Lisa Kelly were not immediately returned. The county and LaGrange have tentatively agreed to split the costs of the upgrades and maintenance 50-50. Any revenue from renting space on the new towers would also be split evenly.

LaGrange plans to use a portion of its American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to pay for the upgrades. The county is expected to consider the issue at the next Troup County Board of Commissioners meeting on Sep. 6.