County approves emergency radio contract

A photo of the emergency radio tower at Leviathan Fire Lookout in Alpine County. Federal Engineering photo

A photo of the emergency radio tower at Leviathan Fire Lookout in Alpine County. Federal Engineering photo

Questions about the cost of an engineering contract to start work on Douglas County’s emergency radio system were answered by three commissioners who had personal recollections of the issues with the communications system.

On Thursday, commissioners approved a $414,750 contract with Don Cushing Associates.

The money is part of $1.45 million in American Rescue Plan Act approved for the around $10 million project.

“This is worth every dime,” Commissioner Wes Rice said. “There are too many places where we have no radio, whatsoever, including Topaz Ranch Estates and Lake Tahoe where there are dead spots.”

Rice, who served with the Tahoe Constable’s Office, recounted how the county had to make a phone call to someone who lives in TRE to make sure he was still alive.

“I know from experience what radio systems cost, and I think this is well within that.”

Commissioner Walt Nowosad, who served in the Sheriff’s Citizen’s Patrol, said they were not able to use radios in the south county community.

Chairman Mark Gardner agreed.

County Chief Technology Officer Dan Johnson said the contract will pay for the engineering and design phase, including the plans to bring the sites up to industry standards.

“This system is in dire need of upgrade,” Johnson said. “Most of the equipment is no longer produced by the manufacturer.”

Funding the total project will likely rely on grants, County Manager Patrick Cates said.

“Our grant manager has done a great job getting some movement on the needle,” he said. “I think we’ve got some good opportunities to approve most of the study over time.”

Trisected by the Carson Range and the Pine Nuts, Douglas has long had issues with radio communications.

Five emergency agencies rely on the county’s radio system, including the Douglas Sheriff’s Office, Alpine County, the Washoe Tribe, East Fork Fire Protection District and Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District.


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