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Hewitt Public Safety to get radios that allow them to communicate with more agencies

Source: KXXV Source: KXXV
HEWITT, TX (KXXV) -

The city of Hewitt is moving forward with the purchase of new public safety radios that are expected to allow first responders communicate with more law enforcement agencies in McLennan County when they respond to calls.

Hewitt Police Chief James Devlin said currently the department can only communicate with a few agencies. The police department can’t communicate through the radio with agencies, such as Waco Police and the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office, which means their dispatchers have to contact dispatchers from other agencies to pass along the information to their officers.

“We work hand in hand and have worked hand in hand with those departments but the only problem was, the only way we could only communicate was either through cell phone or face to face with those other agencies and in this business time of the essence. We have to have that information as quickly as we can,” Devlin said.

He said when his officers respond to calls that may be just outside of city limits, it’s important for them to have all the information available.

"Can you imagine if there was a big piece of information on a major crime that was put out but we didn't have the ability to get it? We may have completely missed it. We may have been able to take a suspect into custody but they went right past us because we didn't know what we were looking for. That’s a huge thing,” Devlin said.

The 80 portable and mobile radios and dispatch consoles, which will cost nearly $730,000, are also expected to help them solve issues that officers experience with the current radio system. At times officers can’t communicate with the dispatch center.

"There are times when they go to check out and their radio gets static or a busy signal basically on their end, and they are unable to tell us where they are because it makes us nervous in here because we constantly want to know where they are without relying on their GPS system,” Hewitt Dispatcher Lauren Alumbaugh said.

According to City Manager Adam Miles, the city is planning to borrow $5 million in order to pay for the public safety radios, the reconstruction of Ritchie Road, the purchase of a new ladder truck, road and street repairs and park improvements.

Miles said the majority of the funds will be used for roads. Hewitt is using $2 million on funding a portion of Ritchie Road in conjunction with the City of Waco and McLennan County.

On Monday, the city council approved a legal notice to issue $5 million in certificates of obligation, which will allow them to start the process required so they can borrow the funds.

A second vote is required by the city council on Dec. 4 to complete the process.

Miles estimates the certificate of obligation to increase the tax rate by up to 3 cent increase from the 53 cents per $100 of taxable property value. Residents are expected to notice the change in their tax bill for 2019.

Mayor Pro-Tem Ed Passalugo said the certificate obligation is important because the city doesn’t want for roads to be damaged due to a delay in repairs. In addition, he said the radio system is important for police safety.

Chief Devlin agrees it is important for the safety of first responders.

"As we get more calls for service and the agencies that surround us and we partner with get more calls for service, that information and receiving that information is more crucial that it ever was,” Devlin said.

The new system is expected to continue allowing Hewitt to communicate with the agencies they currently communicate with the current radio system.

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