County Supervisors recently gave the go-ahead on a project to replace the emergency radio communications system, part of a total reconfiguring of the countywide 9-1-1, dispatch system.

The County’s so-called, “Public Safety Radio Communications System” provides first responder emergency radio dispatch and transmission services to the County Sheriff, SLO County Fire/Cal Fire, emergency medical dispatch (ambulances), County Office of Emergency Services, the police and fire departments of Morro Bay, Pismo Beach, and other cities and agencies.

It is now 21-years old and while it’s performed “flawlessly” according to a staff report, it’s obsolete, no longer meets industry standards, and parts and services are getting harder to find.

The County wants to replace the microwave system with a new Internet protocol system. “This upgrade,” reads the report, “will position the county to continue maintaining its PSRCS, and to upgrade it as necessary over time.”

The new industry standard also eases future expansion and upgrades. And it’ll be under warrantee, too.

Costs for 2-way radio hardware and software, as well as a maintenance contract totals some $6.1 million and will take up to 40 months to buy, configure, test and install, starting this month.

The Radio Modernization Project is linked in time with the schedule of the County’s building a new, co-located dispatch center on Kansas Avenue near the County Jail complex.

The new dispatch center will bring law enforcement and fire department dispatchers under one roof. Currently, law enforcement dispatches out of the emergency services building on Kansas Avenue (a.k.a. the “Darth Vader” building) and County Fire is at the Cal Fire Headquarters off Hwy 1 near Highland Drive in San Luis Obispo.

The new $24 million dispatch center is scheduled to be finished in October 2023. They are projecting the Radio Modernization Project to be done in June 2023, 4-months earlier. The new system will be installed in the new building.

The County is using $4.2 million from the “Automation Replacement Designation” fund; and $1.8M from the “Public Safety Radio Communication Designation” in the “Countywide Automation Replacement Fund.”

The new equipment will come with 3-years of tech support and the County also wants to hire one, limited term network engineer III added to the Information Technology Department. The position would be a 60-month (5 years) contract.