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Missoula sheriff secures Motorola contract to replace antiquated radios

Missoula County Sheriff TJ McDermott said the current radios used by his deputies have grown obsolete and are no longer reparable when they break or quit operating. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current file photo)

The Missoula County sheriff is praising a new contract with Motorola that will see his department receive new hand-held radios for the first time in nearly 15 years.

Sheriff TJ McDermott said the current radios used by his deputies have grown obsolete and are no longer reparable when they break or quit operating.

“It’s been a critical need of our department for a long time to replace the portables,” he said. “I think we’re down to four or six that work that we assign to new people. They’re just not supported.”

The portable radios are needed for emergency communications with deputies in the field and for responding to calls. McDermott said the new radios will meet his department’s communication needs for the next decade.

The radios have a life expectancy of roughly 10 years.

“This was at the top of the list for the deputies as far as a safety issue,” McDermott said. “It’s a valuable piece of equipment that’s been needed to be replaced even before me becoming sheriff.”

Missoula County has been investing in its communications equipment for several years, including the 2019 purchase of a radio shed on Point Six – the mountaintop radio tower at Snowbowl.

The county then turned its attention to replacing its obsolete portable radios with modern equipment capable of enduring the test of time. Motorola offered a 0% financing option, prompting the county to act.

“We’d been looking for different ways of paying for those radios as they reach end of life, and make sure we’re future-proofing ourself,” said county CAO Chris Lounsbury. “Whatever technology we buy today will allow us to work in the future as we look at upgrades to our radio system in the coming years.”

Lounsbury said the new radios are capable of operating on multiple bands, including the county’s current frequency and any new frequencies that may come online in the coming years.

The contract with Motorola affords the county two years of interest free payments. If the equipment isn’t paid off by the end of 2022, the annual payment will include 2.5% interest. The sheriff’s department is placing $250,000 in reserve funding toward the first year’s payment.

Lounsbury expects to pay for the equipment in full before the interest payment kicks in.

“We’ll be able to pay them off over two fiscal years instead of paying them all out of one fiscal year,” Lounsbury said. “It’s a benefit to the county.”