AMERICAN FORK — Terry Fox is not comfortable moving to a police dispatch system based on using 800 megahertz radios. The American Fork police chief doesn't trust them.
Fox knows the price per dispatch call is increasing with the Utah County system. He also believes it's high time American Fork forged active working relationships with Lehi and Pleasant Grove.
Basically, he's calling for a north Utah County dispatch center based out of Pleasant Grove, which has an existing center ready to be expanded.
"It's a tremendously complex issue," Fox said. "And we're not saying we're unhappy with the county dispatching. We've been with them for 25 years and they've been tremendous. But it's time to look at a change."
Pleasant Grove's director of public safety, Mike Ferre, agrees. He's hustling to see if Pleasant Grove can get ready for such a consolidation.
"I think eventually something like this will have to be done," Ferre said.
"We need some directive from the council," Ferre told the City Council recently. "American Fork has indicated they are ready to come on board when they get into their new building. Alpine has said they're not sure they can afford it, but they don't want to be the odd man out. Lehi isn't sure, but they're willing to consider it. The question is, can we afford it?"
Pleasant Grove Police Chief Tom Paul said for Pleasant Grove's dispatch to take on its neighbor cities, the staff would need to be beefed up and the space for the center doubled.
"We now have two full-time dispatchers. We would need three or four stations," he said. "We'll need more space."
On the plus side, combining resources would plug the cities into one another's jurisdictions, he said, and open the critical channels of communication between the borders.
Paul said Pleasant Grove could offer dispatching for about the same price as the new $9 price per call that will be asked by Utah County within the next two years.
The cost per call recently went from $1 a call to $3 a call and will continue to escalate until it reaches the $9 fee — a fee based on actual costs, Paul said.
"The difference is in how you count the calls," Paul said.
"We don't believe combining dispatch areas will save money or make money. You never make money on dispatching. But staying with Utah County, we all believe we'll be forced into the 800 megahertz system. We're not sure we want to do that," he said.
Fox said a recent USA Today news story about cell phones drowning out the signals and local disaster experiences with the 800 megahertz radios have raised red flags for him.
"I think the 800 megahertz system is going to turn out to be a waste of millions," he said. "I don't want to go there."
Fox points to safety reports that show there were transmission dead spots and plenty of frustration with the new radios during the Salt Lake City tornado situation.
He said American Fork doesn't want to toss out its $400,000 investment in equipment and radios until the new frequency system is more dependable. "I'm not saying 800 megahertz won't be the thing of the future. But this would give us four to six years while they work out the bugs."
It's also a good time for American Fork to make some changes, he said. The department will be moving to a new building in the next couple of years.
"We've also looked at creating our own dispatch center in the new building, but it makes more sense to combine with our sister city. They have 25 years of experience. They have a base. They know what they're doing."