BERNALILLO — Sandoval County Fire Chief Eric Masterson looks to improve and expand emergency communications for more remote sections of the county, including Jemez Springs, Cuba and Regina.
Masterson told the Sandoval County Commission during Thursday’s meeting at the county administration building that the county Emergency Management Office, part of the fire department, plans to utilize state funding to build the program and look at additional funding sources to expand it even more.
He said the department’s striving for those communication signals to be broadcasted with more clarity and less static. Masterson also told the board his department’s working to address the issue of what he called “dead space” in areas like Jemez Springs.
“Jemez Springs is in the middle of a canyon, so getting radio signals down into it is challenging. We’re looking at additional tower sites, and we’re looking at additional Wi-Fi router-type capability that would be able to make sure that Jemez Springs is covered as well,” he told the Observer following the meeting. “If we can find a couple tower sites that we can shoot a signal up into the canyon, that’s our best bet. If there’s just no sites available, there are other technology options like utilizing cell phone carriers.”
He told the board the Navajo Nation suggested its towers can be utilized.
Masterson told the Observer his department needs to have such working partnerships in the area, adding it should explore other infrastructure that may be available and take advantage of it.
He told the board his department invested $4 million for the project long-term. The program will abide by state and Federal Communications Commission guidelines, he said, and the state will contact the department if an issue arises.
Masterson told the board once his department programs everything for the new system, it’ll be like flipping a switch to talk on a state radio system. If it suddenly doesn’t work, however, it can be switched back to the current system to talk to dispatch and address problems.
Masterson also told the board the maintenance cost would be $20 per radio each month.
County Commissioner Jay Block inquired about testing data. Masterson replied he’s working with Motorola and looking into how other states are implementing their systems.
As far as various logistics go, including dealing with inclement weather, Commission Chairman David Heil requested that Masterson iron those out for the next commission meeting.