County Supervisors have approved a project to modernize its radio communications system at a cost of several million dollars.

Supervisors approved a request from its Information Technology Department to replace the “Land Mobile Radio” or LMR system with a modern system developed by Dailey-Wells, Inc., for some $3.54 million.

It also approved a $749,000 contract with IPKeys Power Partners, Inc., to design and install an Internet-Protocol-based switching and routing system for the new LMR, according to a report from IT Manager Daniel Milei.

“The County’s public safety radio communications system,” Milei wrote, “provides access to radio communications towers, transmitters, and services by the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Office, San Luis Obispo County Fire, Emergency Medical Dispatch, County Office of Emergency Services, San Luis Obispo County Probation, Public Works, Health Agency, along with other state and local agencies including local law enforcement and fire departments.”

He added that the current LMR system was custom built by the County IT staff “using multiple vendors’ components, creating a system that has been in service approximately 20 years. During those 20 years of operation, the system has performed nearly flawlessly.” They’ve been mixing and matching various components to keep it up and running all these years.

But communications have moved on from the County’s old system to Internet-based systems but still working with microwave technology. Changing the system now will allow the County IT Department to continue to upgrade the system to keep up with industry standards.

Back in August 2020 the IT Department took bids for the change and got four. The County decided to split the project in two with one portion for the radio transmitters and receivers and the other for the Internet connections and required hardware.

The project actually has three parts — first was an upgrade to the microwave technology, which was approved in late 2019 and is now completed.

The total costs for the 3-phase project is $6.1 million, according to Milei’s report.

Completion of the LMR overhaul is being timed to coincide with a County project to build a new combined dispatch center on Kansas Avenue that would merge the County’s law enforcement and fire department dispatch services under one building.

Currently, law enforcement dispatch is done through the County Office of Emergency Services Building and the fire dispatch is done through the dispatch center at the Cal Fire/County Fire Headquarters on Hwy 1 just outside SLO City.

Once the initial millions are spent on the new radio system, the annual maintenance costs are estimated at $25,000 a year.