ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The City of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County are working on making a pricey upgrade to their radio communications system with hopes it will improve coverage and make repairs easier.
Right now, the radio system that first responders for both the city and county use to communicate has a couple of big issues.
Currently, there are coverage gaps in parts of Bernalillo County where the system goes dark.
“Our deputies, our EMS personnel cannot receive or send radio messages from Chilili,” said Bernalillo County Commissioner Wayne Johnson. “It’s been a long-standing problem.”
That problem proved especially tricky during the Dog Head Fire when evacuations were put in place for the area.
“In the Dog Head fire, thankfully nobody lost their life because of it, but if we don’t restore and fix that gap and fix our radio communications…. somebody will die,” Johnson said.
There’s another issue. The radio system being used is no longer being supported by its manufacturer, meaning new parts are no longer available.
“Replacement parts are very very difficult to come by,” said Gilbert Montano, chief of staff for Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry. “It’s not impossible but it’s becoming more of a challenge.”
Getting a new system won’t be cheap. Montano says the price range they’ve heard so far is between $20 and $30 million, a cost that will be split between the county and city.
Johnson anticipates federal help will be needed.
“Right now there isn’t a pocket deep enough locally to fill that need and you look under every rock when you’re looking for things like this,” Johnson said.
That new system also likely won’t be in place anytime soon. Montano says the city will put out an RFP in the early fall, with a vendor chosen a few months after that following a scoring process.
“We want to make sure that we’re not caught when everything’s falling apart without a good replacement plan and a transition period to make sure it’s operating the same way,” Montano said. “It’s vital, it’s absolutely a priority.”
“It’s a problem and it really puts people at risk,” Johnson said. “Those are the things that as a commissioner… it keeps you awake at night, frankly.”