Wireless technology and fiber optics have come together to solve a long standing communications problem in Morrow County.
Members of law enforcement, state officials and Consolidated Electric personnel gathered July 17 at the Consolidated Electric Cooperative site on State Route 95 to dedicate the newly installed MARCS Communication System.
Jerry Lauer, CEO and President of Consolidated Electric Coop, said the project was a win-win-win situation for the Co-Op, Morrow County and the MARCS organization.
“We see this project as being very consistent with the mission of the co-op,” Lauer said, namely “to improve the quality of life for our members and the communities we serve.”
MARCS (Multi-Agency Radio Communication System) is a 700/800 MHz radio and data network that utilizes state-of-the-art trunked technology to provide statewide inter-operability in digital clarity to its subscribers throughout Ohio and a 10 mile radius outside of Ohio. The project works hand in hand with the Enlight fiber optics (high-quality broadband access at a lower cost) now utilized by Consolidated Electric.
CE Vice President Doug Payauys said installing the MARCS communication on the CE tower solves several issues. Better public safety radio coverage in the county and improved in-building radio coverage for law enforcement were two of the biggest concerns that will be greatly improved with the MARCS Radio system in place on the tower.
Commissioner Dick Miller, himself a former Consolidated Electric employee, said the need for better MARCS coverage in the county started with a plan, then assembling the right assets, and executing the plan.
Ohio MARCS Program Director Darryl Anderson the initiative for this project started about six years ago with Ken Keylor, vice president of statewide services for Ohio Rural Electric Cooperatives.
“The Ohio Rural Electric Co-Ops decided they needed a new radio system so regardless of where they went in the state, the could actually talk to line crews and first responders,” Anderson said. “Ken approached us and said they needed to use some of our towers statewide so they could build a radio system, and we talked through it. We suggested they become part of us, and the FCC objected but we made it happen. Of about 28 co-ops, about 20 are on MARCS.”
Then about two years ago, OSP Post Commander Toby Smith, Sheriff Brenneman and Anderson met to discuss how to get a tower in place. Enter Commissioner Dick Miller, who had a history with Consolidated Electric.
Anderson said MARCS has been around for 15 years, starting out with 170 voice towers and now boasting over 300. They used to use a T-1 telephone line to provide communications. Then MARCS, working with Agile Communications System, came up with fiber optics and above-ground microwaves.
Dick Miller said the success came from Senator Dave Burke and State Representative Jeff McClain, who called a meeting about a year ago and assembled together ‘the people who could solve the problem.’
“When we left there, we had the direction we needed to go,” Miller said.
He gave due credit to his fellow commissioners.
“When I came to them about the additional $30,000 to help this project move along, they stepped right up to the line and were all for it,” Miller recalled. “Commissioner Harden, as a long-time county sheriff, understands the need for good radio communications, and Whiston is astute and well rounded in county government.”
Darryl Anderson credited Toby Wagner and Joe Montgomery of the MARCS Steering Committee for much of the project’s success with their cost-savings measures. Anderson said the statewide communications system saves taxpayers dollars because obsolete systems are being eliminated, and it maximizes inter-operability between emergency personnel, which will save lives.
“This is good government,” he concluded.
Miller thanked the Consolidated Electric board for embracing the project. “I love it when a plan comes together.”
Reach Randa Wagner at 419-946-3010, ext. 1803 or on Twitter@MorrCoSentinel.