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Boone County Joint Communications upgrade to improve poor radio coverage

A project is underway to upgrade emergency communications in Boone County at a cost of about $2.2 million.

The radio system, overseen by Boone County Joint Communications, is used by first responders and dispatchers. The project is meant to improve the county’s “poor radio coverage,” Boone County Joint Communications Director Chad Martin said.

“The public will see a benefit through this by way of the emergency services responders being able to communicate better back to the dispatch center,” Martin said.

The money to pay for the upgrades came from a sales tax voters approved in 2013 to improve operations at Boone County Joint Communications.

“It will be a big relief to know that we are able to cover the entire county with good radio coverage for the agencies we serve,” Martin said.

Some areas within Boone County that have “insufficient radio coverage” for first responders and emergency services, making it harder for them to communicate with each other, Martin said.

“A lot of the areas of Boone County that we’ve identified are near the river and near Cedar Creek where radio coverage is spotty just by way of the lay of the land,” Martin said.

Martin anticipates putting up one or two towers in the identified problem areas “to allow the first responders to go into those areas on foot and help find people if they’re missing or if someone’s fallen down a hill, be able to have radio coverage while they’re working that scene,” he said.

Martin said the department likely won’t need to spend the entire budgeted $2.2 million for the project. The budget includes wiggle room in case the department has to pay for lease agreements with private individuals to place towers on their property.

“The amount that we have in this year’s budget is enough to cover some land acquisition if we are not able to find a partnership with another governmental entity.” he said.

However, Martin said they first try to place towers on public land, including land belonging to the city or other government agencies. Building a new tower can take up to a year, he said.

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