Licensing in place for ELO to meet FCC requirements

EAST LIVERPOOL – After some frustrating delays, licensing is finally in place that will allow the city to comply with a federally-mandated change for its radio system.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) required all public safety and business/industry land mobile radio systems to cease using 25 kHz bands by the end of last year.

This move, requiring systems to move down to at least 12.5kHz, is aimed at ensuring greater channel capacity for the multitude of radio systems now in use, according to Service-Safety Director Ryan Estell.

In order to comply, the city had to switch each of its existing three licenses with the FCC to the 12.5kHz, and city officials also decided to move from the older analog technology to a digital system at the same time.

To operate digitally also required a different designator on the licenses, Estell explained.

All the licensing change requests were done through Staley Communications, with whom the city deals for all its radio needs, and Estell said two of the licenses came back as requested. The third, however, came back without the requested digital designator.

“We had to go through the entire process all over,” Estell said.

When the third license was returned to the city the second time, it had the required digital designator but with an unrealistic expiration date.

The license was shown to have gone into effect Jan. 9, 2013 with an expiration date three days later on Jan. 11.

“We believe it was a mistake, but we had to go through the entire approval process again,” Estell lamented.

This week, he reported the third license has been received with the expected expiration date of 2023, and now with all the proper licensing in place, Staley Communications can design a new antenna that will be needed.

Estell expected to meet with department heads to discuss the types of radios that will be used, saying, “We did this before but since it took two years to go through the licensing process, we wanted to refresh.”

He said Paul Staley, owner of the communications company, has taken over the city’s account personally, and Estell said he expected to learn sometime this week how long the antenna design will take and what equipment will be needed.

Fire, police, streets, recycling/refuse and water/wastewater departments all use radios, and there are radios in both Estell’s office and the mayor’s for contacting the public works departments.

Each of the departments is responsible for purchasing its own new radios, and the street and refuse/recycling departments purchased theirs previously when a “good deal” was found, Estell said.

The city will most likely secure a loan for the purchase of radios for the police and fire departments.

For pagers, portable radios, truck radios and two new dispatch stations, Estell estimated a cost of $120,000 for the safety forces.

The equipment being ordered will be able to operate on analog or digital and also will be compatible with the lower 6.2 kHz band, should that become mandated.

Estell said that, while the city was required to have the system in place by the end of 2012, he has been in contact with the FCC and was assured that, since it was in the progress of coming into compliance, it will be given an extension until the physical work is completed.

This wasn’t a last-minute effort on his part to come into compliance, according to Estell, who said the late police chief and he had advised City Council “for a long time” that the deadline was looming, “but the money was never set aside.”