MARCS radio system under review

Published 10:40 am Thursday, April 16, 2009

A crippled radio tower could offer the signal for a change in the county’s communications system.

At Wednesday’s Lawrence County Commission meeting, a request to repair a tower in South Point used by the sheriff’s office was tabled so the commissioners could study possibly switching to the MARCS System for dispatching.

Repairing the tower that provides communication between Ironton and the Chesapeake-Burlington area would cost just under $9,000.

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That’s when Commissioner Jason Stephens requested the study.

MARCS is the Multi-Agency Radio Communications System that is a state initiative created after the Shadyside-Ohio River flood disaster in June 1990. There 26 were killed and tens of thousands of homes in this southeastern Ohio city were destroyed, according to the Weather Channel Web site.

At that time first responders couldn’t contact each other even with portable and mobile radios, according to a MARCS Web site. With MARCS the entire state could have the capacity to have first response contact with other agencies.

Stephens acknowledged initial costs could be high with a single radio costing between $3,000 to $4,000. But there would be a decrease in monthly maintenance costs such as from repairing the South Point tower.

Putnam County in northwest Ohio was the first in the state to put in a MARCS system with grants, including a Public Safety Interoperable Communications grant, according to a story in the Crescent News.

Currently, there are more than 600 state agencies connected through MARCS, the story states, with a goal of reaching out to six other states.