Johns Creek consultant favors Fulton radio net

City still must build tower

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JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – The city will have to spend an estimated $850,000 to $1.5 million (not including land) to build a tower for a new police-fire radio network, according to Johns Creek’s consultant, but the best partnership for the public safety radio net will be with Fulton County.

The tower would be needed to provide coverage in parts of east Johns Creek good enough for handheld radios to penetrate buildings, especially schools.

Fulton County has seen its current public safety radio net come to its “end of life” and has allocated $19 million to replace it. Meanwhile, the North Fulton cities of Roswell, Alpharetta, Milton and Sandy Springs have decided to build their own public safety radio net and created the North Fulton Regional Radio Authority (NFRRA).

The county needs to provide a radio net so that its police, fire and rescue officers are in radio contact at all times. Likewise, the Fulton cities need a radio net that will allow radio contact outside their cities with their own units and allow coordination of other police and fire units in the county.

Johns Creek was party to the NFRRA discussions, but ultimately the city decided to explore other options including partnering with Forsyth-Cobb and Gwinnett counties in their public safety radio nets.

At the Oct. 7 City Council workshop, the city’s consultant, Mike McGannon with Engineering Associates Inc. of Alpharetta, reported his company’s recommendation based on a needs assessment he completed for the city. The assessment considered coverage, capacity, reliability and technology.

After examining the costs and benefits of joining those outside the county, McGannon said they were inferior choices and would also mean Johns Creek would have to pay either the Fulton County network or the North Fulton network a monthly fee to participate in Fulton mutual aid talk groups.

In comparing the Fulton and NFRRA systems, McGannon noted the city would be able to keep its radios that operate on the 800 megahertz channel used by Fulton County. Using the NFRRA system would require a change to the 700 MHz channel and would mean the city would have to replace some 200 handheld radios it now has.

Replacement of city radios would be $800,000, McGannon said.

Joining the Fulton radio net means the city will remain on the 800 MHz net, and the county will partner with Johns Creek on the tower, he said.

The tower in Johns Creek would be needed with any choice because the coverage is spotty. The costs of the tower could be further mitigated with the lease of space on the tower to other users.

McGannon said further review may be able to tweak the details, but the recommendation is to join the Fulton net. The City Council has yet to vote on the matter.