Randy LIedtke

Fire Marshal Randy Liedtke speaks during a Carthage City Commission meeting.

The City of Carthage plans to upgrade its police and fire radio communications system and move its repeater equipment to the Carthage Civic Center.

The change will help keep police and fire equipment up to current standards, as the current system does not meet them, and it will also allow the city to at some point in the future remove a structurally-unsound radio tower from the police and fire building.

City commissioners unanimously voted to spend $42,340.30 to replace and relocate the radio equipment at their most recent meeting.

The current repeater equipment the city uses is more than 10 years old and has reached the end of its service life, Fire Marshall Randy Liedtke said.

“We are not compliant with what we’re supposed to be doing with P25 digital-capable equipment,” he said. “We don’t meet that criteria. So our first proposal, or Phase 1 of this is to replace just purchase all new repeater equipment that would be the base station equipment for the fire and the police departments and to install that equipment on the tower located at the Carthage Civic Center.”

Moving the repeater equipment to the Civic Center would also allow the fire department to extend its radio range to just outside the city, where the department also answer calls.

The tower at the Civic Center is owned by UT Health, but an agreement has been in place to allow the city to put equipment on the tower in exchange for letting the hospital put the antenna on city property.

“We can get that new equipment installed on the tower out at the civic center, then that’s going to take a little time,” Liedtke said. “If we said go today, by the time they got the equipment, done the install, we’re probably looking at six weeks.”

Liedtke told commissioners at their recent meeting that the current radio tower at the police and fire building has major issues and is “not safe period.” It’s about 60 years old.

The city is currently looking at replacing that radio tower with something smaller and using the current radio repeater equipment on that new tower to create a back-up communications system.

“It’s actually tied to the carport over on the police building, and it’s leaning towards the tower,” he said. “So there’s problems with that. The tower people won’t climb it. If we had a lighting hit today, if something happened to one of the antennas on that tower, no one would climb that tower today to replace it.”

Liedtke said the new repeater system would need to be installed at the Civic Center before any demolition or replacement of the old tower is done at the police and fire building.

“We can’t turn anything off at the tower that we have or do anything structurally to the tower as far as disassembling it until we can get the new equipment installed somewhere,” he said. “Just seems to be a really good option to put our equipment on the tower out at the civic center.”

The police and fire building’s tower also includes the fire siren, which city officials said they planned to keep — although they were not sure where it might be relocated once the old tower is taken down because it weighs several hundred pounds.

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Meredith Shamburger serves as the regional editor for Carthage and Kilgore. She has previously worked at the Longview News-Journal, the Marshall News Messenger and The Dallas Morning News. Meredith graduated from Southern Methodist University in 2011.