The Ottumwa Courier

January 11, 2013

Weather now a key factor in building radio tower

Police waiting for completion to switch frequencies

CINDY TOOPES
Courier Staff Writer

OTTUMWA — Communication is vital in today’s world, and numerous emergency personnel are more than ready for the communications tower to go up.

Narrow banding is the focus, according to Ottumwa Police Chief Jim Clark.

“We’ll be switching frequencies from UHF to VHF, and we’re still in the process of that because the communications tower isn’t up yet,” Clark said this week.

Police won’t switch until the tower is up, and that now depends on the weather, he added. If the weather allows, some contractors could soon still pour concrete and build the footings for the tower.

Officials said the work could be done sometime in March or April, and officials could go ahead in putting the tower in the chosen spot on the Fourth Street hill. The area is near the former site of the old Washington Junior High School, which no longer exists.

“Once the tower is complete and the repeaters are on the tower, then we could switch to a different frequency,” Clark said.

State and federal agencies must have narrow banding completed by the end of this month.

“We have the licenses and are in the process of having equipment switched to narrow banding, which hss nothing to do with digital,” Clark said. “Once the equipment is all narrow-banded, our reception will be poor in lots of places in the city. It’s one of the primary reasons for going to VHF rather than UHF.”

Currently police are on UHF only and cannot communicate with other agencies, Clark said. When on VHF, police can communicate with the sheriff’s department, Iowa State Patrol and ambulance and fire units.

Clark also noted police are required to use narrow banding by Dec. 31. They have the licenses and the main thing shows the Federal Communications Commission that local police are working on the situation.

“They’re in the process of switching 40 portable radios and the ones in their patrol cars,” Clark said. “All have to be narrow-banded.”

That means an officer will have to open each radio unit and adjust some technical components inside the radio.