TUPELO – The Lee County Board of Supervisors approved a $1.5 million payment Monday on the $7.5 million countywide emergency communications upgrade, a system receiving rave reviews from users.
The most recent payment to system provider Motorola means the E911 system is now 90 percent paid for. The remaining $754,606 will likely be paid by early September.
The E911 system provides county and municipal first responders within Lee County communications even in the most remote areas locally and up to 300 miles away.
“We have found nowhere we cannot communicate with this new system,” said Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson. “We spoke to an officer down on the Gulf Coast Friday who sounded as if he was in the county.”
Unlike the previous emergency communications network, local emergency responders and officials can communicate on the same channel during emergencies requiring more than a single department or agency. It also connects with wireless communication systems used by the Mississippi Highway Patrol and other state-level first responders.
Lee County E911 Director Paul Harkins describes the new system as “working great” despite a few glitches attributed to users learning how to use the system. Communication with the radio system has included echoes, feedback and unclear transmissions during the 20 days used.
“It’s learning to fine-tune it so we can’t get the feedback and but allow dispatchers to hear,” Harkins said.
The communications system will have a two-year warranty after the county formally accepts the system, replacing a 21-year-old dinosaur by emergency communication standards. County leaders decided to transition with the new system after parts for the predecessor could no longer be found.
Supervisors financed the system through a modest tax increase of 1.5 mills ending in 2028.