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Dead spots plague Columbus Co. emergency radios

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COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WWAY) -- After years of research, Columbus County upgraded its antiquated emergency radio system two years ago. But is the county getting its money's worth from the million-dollar system really worth it?

Two years after the digital trunk system went into service, emergency workers are still struggling with static.

"In the past we had actually two systems, a UHF and a VHF system, where fire and EMS could not communicate with law enforcement," Columbus County Emergency Services Director Kim Worley said. "With the new system, we will have communications with all agencies."

The Kenwood Digital Trunking System was supposed to streamline emergency operations in Columbus County, but emergency workers quickly noticed signal problems in rural areas.

"A weak signal is in that particular spot, they may not have good coverage," Worley said. "It might be static coverage, but if they walk 100 feet, then they are able to have communication, and it would be crystal clear."

Officials believe the dropout problem may be coming from the relay towers, which may be too few and far between.

"Currently we have five tower sites that are installed in the county, and we're working toward developing another tower site," Worley said. "There are a few areas in the county that do have weak coverage now not on mobiles, but on portables and with this sixth site, hopefully that will improve communications in those areas."

The sixth repeating transmitter is scheduled to be placed on a cell phone tower near Tabor City by the end of the year.

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