Washington County first responders stress why they need radios


Luther said the radio system the county currently has is one lightning strike away from going off the air.

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WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ark. (KNWA) — The proposed quarter-cent sales tax on the ballot, is raising the question for some people — why don’t first responders just use their cell phones?

John Luther with Washington County Emergency Management said for the last two years, county leaders have been searching for ways to improve communication during a crisis.

“We are in dire need, our system is on its last leg,” Luther said.

Luther said the radio system the county currently has is one lightning strike away from going off the air.

“We hope that the public will support emergency services in Washington County by voting to help us acquire a public safety radio system,” he said. “It is just 1/4 of one penny for one year, and after the 12 months — it ends.”

As technology changes, Luther said people have asked why first responders don’t just use their cellphones.

Luther said they use cellphones all the time, but in certain situations, it wouldn’t be logical, which is why he said the new radio is vital.

“We understand from a civilian perspective that that seems like a good choice, but for public safety, it is not a good choice,” Luther said.

Overall the year-long sales tax increase would raise the 8-point-million needed over 12 months to implement the system in Washington County.

“We feel like that’s the best way we can care for the public is get the system that we need to take care of them and we need to do it as low impact on the public as we possibly can,” Luther said.

He said that money will provide multiple towers, consoles in two dispatch centers, and mobile radios for all departments and responders on the countywide system.

KNWA talked to concerned citizens a couple of weeks ago who thought the county chose a more-expensive system than needed, but Luther said this system is the standard for public safety.

“It’s not a more expensive system than we need,” Luther said. “It’s the way that we will have interoperability with our peers.”

Luther said he hopes the community will support them.

“We do the very best for them that we can and this is just something that we need that’ll cover us for the next couple of decades,” he said. “It’s a small price to pay.”

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