Radios a must-have, so cities, county stuck

The city of Truman is feeling a little shell-shocked over the cost of a proposed maintenance agreement for its ARMER?radios, which are used by police, fire and ambulance departments throughout the county. We’re sure other jurisdictions also are concerned about the radios and the costs to maintain them.

Truman budgeted $3,400 for this purpose. City leaders found out this week that the one provider of the service in the county wants $8,500 per year. Truman has 58 radio units, and it can cost $600 to $800 to repair just one.

All equipment breaks down over time, so Truman and other cities will not want to get caught without the benefit of a maintenance agreement. At the same time, Truman officials believe Martin County, which actually owns and insures the radios, should perhaps play more of a role in their maintenance.

All of this is rather complicated. It began with the federal mandate to switch to the ARMER system. Counties scrambled to obtain the radios and the funding to purchase them. They also had to make sure all departments countywide were covered.

And now departments large and small depend on the radios, which obviously come with a hefty price tag, and a high cost to maintain. Smaller towns see the costs as too high for them. We have to sympathize. But the county government doesn’t have a bottomless well of money either.

We see two fundamental problems: The costs of the radios themselves is high. And the lack of more maintenance providers to offer bids on the service inflates its cost. But until there is more competition and efficiency in the industry, the county and its small towns seem stuck.