Increased oil and gas industry radio traffic has forced the Eddy County Fire Service to upgrade a component of its communications system at a cost of $220,775.
The fire services communication system was upgraded in 2008, costing more than $3 million. But in an effort to save costs at the time, an unlicensed microwave was purchased, meaning that anyone else who buys similar equipment can operate on the same frequency.
“The thought at the time was, ‘Who in the world would stick a bunch of microwaves out across the desert?’ ” Fire Marshall Robert Brader said when presenting the resolution to the county commissioners Tuesday. “Unfortunately, the oil industry and some other industries discovered the ability to use that technology.”
The result is a “tremendous amount” of interference on the Fire Department frequencies, Brader said.
The equipment to be purchased will allow the Fire Department to have exclusive rights to a frequency.
“People cannot be on the same frequency. Anybody else wanting to put up microwaves has to coordinate and make sure that it does not interfere with our system,” Brader said.
The commissioners unanimously approved the resolution allowing fire services to purchase the equipment, which will be funded from the 60 percent Fire Excise Tax Fund.
When Commissioner Stella Davis asked Brader about the 2008 communications upgrade, he assured her that the rest of the $3 million equipment is still up and functioning.
“It’s just the one piece we went cheap on,” Brader said. “So all the rest of the microwave links that we put in seven years ago are still up, functional and operational.”
The technology to be purchased is expected to last for approximately the next 20 years.
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