Horry County Council plans to hire a consultant to help them decide which digital radio system option is most feasible – options range in cost from as little as $6 million to as much as $14.4 million.
The current analog radio system will no longer be supported by Motorola as of December 2016, requiring the county to go digital. It has 2,000 users on its system.
The consultant is expected to provide the county with a “vendor-neutral, independent analysis” of options to meet this requirement, according to a memo issued by the county at the Horry County Council’s fall budget retreat Friday.
The consultant contract is expected to be finalized in January 2015.
“This is probably the most important project that we have coming up,” said Anne Wright, assistant county administrator for administration. “The project scope includes adjusting the tower sites to convert them to digital.”
The county will have three options to choose from. The first will cost $14.4 million to update its nine towers and add two more towers, with an annual cost of $1.7 million. After eight years, the county would own the system.
The second option calls for the county to partner with the state’s Palmetto 800 Radio System and become a user on the statewide system. The initial cost for the county would be $4.2 million, with an annual user fee of $1.6 million.
The third option is a hybrid of the first two plans where the county would own some of the infrastructure and towers, but would use the state’s switch. The initial cost of the third is option would be $10.7 million with an annual cost of $755,000.
Wright said she wanted to make sure the council was aware of how much the project could cost.
“This gives you a little insight to the magnitude of the dollars we’re talking about,” Wright said.
Fred Crosby, chief of Horry County Fire/Rescue, said the spending doesn’t stop there.
“There will be added cost,” Crosby said. “If you look at the last 10, 15 years, it’s well over $1 million a year.”
Council Chairman Mark Lazarus said the county will have to finance the project up front.
“We’ll have to go and gets bonds for it,” Lazarus said. “It will have to come out of the capital investment fund.”