Fiscal Court moving on jail communications issue

Al Mattingly

Daviess Fiscal Court is moving ahead with plans to fix radio communications issues at the Daviess County Detention Center with the goal of having the work completed within two months after the bid is awarded.

The jail's communication issues have to do with deputy jailers using portable radios at the facility. The jail's problems are part of a larger issue of communication among sheriff's deputies, county and volunteer firefighters.

In the county, deputies and firefighters have reported not being able to send or receive some messages when attempting to communicate with the 911 dispatch center.

Trott Communications, the Texas firm that studied the issues, found the equipment used for radio communication at the jail has a limited range, likely because of the density of the buildings. Across the entire county VHF radio system, Trott officials found the bulk of the equipment is obsolete and no longer being manufactured or supported.

The jail's issues were considered a priority by Trott officials, who recommended the work be done immediately.

Daviess Judge-Executive Al Mattingly said Thursday that county officials were opening the bid they'd received that day.

"The jail project is on the move," Mattingly said. "We are looking at that being completed by the end of February." The estimated cost of the jail upgrades is $40,000, according to the consultants.

Jordon Johnson, Fiscal Court's purchasing manager, said the county received one bid by mail but had solicited a vendor and expected that bid to be delivered by the time of the bid opening. Johnson said the work is anticipated to be completed within two months of starting work.

The plan is to award the bid on the jail's upgrades at Fiscal Court's Dec. 5 meeting, Johnson said.

While the cost of the jail project is comparatively small, the price tag on solving communication problems in the rest of the county for responders is anticipated to cost millions of dollars. Trott provided different options, including upgrading the existing VHF system or upgrading to an 800 megahertz communication system like the one used by the city of Owensboro.

Mattingly said elected officials are gathering comments from the agencies that use the communication system.

"We have received comments back from the sheriff's department and are awaiting comments from the fire department," Mattingly said.

Questionnaires were sent to the sheriff's department and the paid and volunteer fire departments, Johnson said.

"The goal is to have all the information collected so the commissioners and the judge can make a decision on whether to include it in the upcoming budget cycle," Johnson said.

Major Barry Smith, chief deputy for the sheriff's department, responded to the questionnaire on behalf of the department. Smith said the agency has concerns about upgrading the VHF system.

"Our thoughts are (upgrading) the conventional system for ... the average work day may be OK, but we do have a little bit of concern on the VHF system that the noise level will increase and the 'skip' will continue," Smith said.

Atmospheric conditions and topography have been known to interfere with portable radio communications in the county, and at times transmissions from agencies from as far away at Tennessee "skip" and are being picked up locally on the VFH system.

Trott officials said upgrading the VHF system would not necessarily address the environmental noise that hampers the system.

"My understanding is the noise level is going to continue to increase in the VHF system," Smith said. "That's something that could be OK today, but in five years, could it be worse?"

Smith said having a 700 or 800 megahertz system would allow the sheriff's department to communicate directly with the Owensboro Police Department and Kentucky State Police through portable radios. Right now, dispatch relays messages between the agencies, Smith said.

"Right now, we can't hear the city, and they can't hear us," he said.

James Mayse, 270-691-7303,, Twitter: @JamesMayse

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