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McCracken County signs off on 911 radio system upgrades in joint effort with Paducah

McCracken County and the City of Paducah will be splitting the costs to upgrade some parts of the 911 radio system infrastructure, including equipment for five radio towers.
Hannah Saad
McCracken County and the City of Paducah will be splitting the costs to upgrade some parts of the 911 radio system infrastructure, including equipment for five radio towers.

McCracken County’s Fiscal Court authorized Monday a contract binding them and the city of Paducah to jointly upgrade an out of date 911 radio system infrastructure to be shared by the two local governments.

The contract was passed during a joint meeting of McCracken County’s Fiscal Court and Paducah’s City Commission. Paducah officials plan to authorize the contract on their end in a separate city commission meeting on Tuesday.

“It was a fairly lengthy process, but it was a thorough process and there's probably nothing more important. Certainly nothing more important than emergency services in the county and city,” McCracken County Judge-Executive Craig Clymer said. “An essential part of that is the communications, and we’re about to strengthen that greatly.”

This agreement will go toward replacing an out-of-date radio system that reached its manufacturer’s end of life date five years ago. Members of the Paducah Police Department have previously said that they needed to buy replacement parts for the radio system on Ebay.

Per the agreement, the city and county will split the costs of system infrastructure upgrades, which will cost roughly $7.7 million. Those upgrades include equipment for five radio towers, new consoles for the 911 communications center in Paducah and backup consoles for McCracken County Emergency Operations Center.

Each entity will then separately pay for portable radio units for first responder agencies, including law enforcement officers and firefighters. In total, the upgrades are projected to cost around $10 million.

The deal has been years in the making. The two far western Kentucky governments signed a memorandum of understanding in 2021 agreeing to become partners in the 911 system and split the cost of radio infrastructure upgrades. Currently, Paducah owns the 911 system, and McCracken County pays the city annually to utilize the service as a customer.

Paducah Mayor George Bray said it was a “momentous day” getting city and county officials together in the same space to talk about the mutual agreement.

“[I] appreciate the county working with the city to replace a very old system that really needed to be replaced for the benefit of all citizens, and not only the city, but the county as well,” Bray said.

Some of the next steps for McCracken County and Paducah will be determining payment structures to fund the annual cost of operations of the 911 system, as well as paying back the debt incurred from the radio system project. While the city and county currently levy fees on landlines to fund 911 operations, the decreasing number of landlines has seen both the city and county recoup less money from those fees over the years. City and county leaders have discussed levying new fees – including a parcel fee or a water meter fee – to replace the landline fee.

At Monday’s meeting, county and city officials said they would need to have further discussions on whether a new fee would pay solely for the annual operations cost or if the money from the new fee would also go toward paying off the debt incurred from the system upgrades.

The fiscal court and city commission members said they would also need to discuss a governance model for the 911 system that better suits the city and county’s co-ownership.

Hannah Saad is the Assistant News Director for WKMS. Originally from Michigan, Hannah earned her bachelor’s degree in news media from The University of Alabama in 2021. Hannah moved to western Kentucky in the summer of 2021 to start the next chapter of her life after graduation. Prior to joining WKMS in March 2023, Hannah was a news reporter at The Paducah Sun. Her goal at WKMS is to share the stories of the region from those who call it home. Outside of work, Hannah enjoys exploring local restaurants, sports photography, painting, and spending time with her fiancé and two dogs.
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