New digital radio system praised by users

Dec 16, 2012 By Eric Blom Staff Writer

Fremont County implemented "WyoLink" well before next month's deadline.

County officials had high praise for the new WyoLink communication system but said the county faces some challenges in implementing it.

Users answered a survey about the new system from the state that asked for the commissioners' input. WyoLink is a statewide, public-safety, digital radio system.

Carl Freeman, manager of the county's 911 dispatch center, said WyoLink's coverage in Fremont County is superior to the old system.

The previous network, for example, only had one repeater in Fremont County. WyoLink has seven, Freeman told county commissioners.

Though there are dead spots, "those areas of concern are so much fewer than with what we were using," Freeman said.

Rocky McWilliams, the county roads Riverton district crew chief, said he often finds WyoLink works better than the analog system.

"A lot of my crew I put over on WyoLink," he said.

Emergency Management Coordinator Kathi Metzler said Fremont County started upgrading to the WyoLink system early, leading others.

"Some counties didn't get on it right away," she said.

Metzler added that those counties are now struggling to make the switch before the state's deadline on Jan. 1.

Freeman is concerned some firefighters in rural areas are not familiar with the new technology because they only get a handful of emergency calls a year.

He said they had received verbal and written training, but they might do practical training with mock emergencies.

The new digital radios county workers use are more expensive than the old ones. Chairman Doug Thompson said he was concerned about the cost of replacing them and about deciding who needs more or less sophisticated models.

"How do you secure sensitive information?" he asked.

Freeman said the radios are capable of encryption. He added that the sheriff's office radios are capable of that as well.

Freeman said that not all workers need the more expensive radios.

"In critical areas we have expensive equipment," he said.

Those radios cost about $5,000. In other areas, workers use radios incapable of encryption which are less expensive and cost $1,700 to $2,000.

Thompson suggested that the county establish a fund to pay for what will be regularly needed replacements.

County Clerk Julie Freese said Thompson's suggestion was a great idea, and the commission should discuss it during the budget process.

Metzler said she would add the commissioners' concerns to the survey.

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