Marion County Sheriff Jason Sandholdt Upgrades Communications
For law enforcement members in Marion County — with a population of 33,000 covered by an office with two lieutenants and 11 county deputies — it was time for a communications upgrade.
The old system
Sheriff Jason Sandholdt and his deputies were relying on a standard, analog VHF system.
“We’re not just a law enforcement agency,” Sandholdt says, “We’re also the public safety answering point for multiple fire departments, both staffed and volunteer, and three Police Departments.”
These rural first responders utilize an analog radio system, which must be maintained.
For Sandholdt, it’s been extremely critical to upgrade law enforcement while not abandoning or losing communication with volunteer services.
“We wanted to go with a dual-band radio system,” he says.
This would allow Marion County deputies to go P25 digital and utilize the state’s new Motorola 700 MHz system while also allowing for continual use of analog and P25 VHF if other departments felt this was the best choice for them.
It came down to two companies that could provide the solution: RACOM and Motorola. Sandholdt brought representatives from each in and asked them to show their best. Price was a primary factor in his search as was making sure local offices could provide him the level of service he expects.
In the end, Sandholdt chose RACOM over Motorola. He selected Kenwood dual-band mobile radios, Harris dual-band portable radios, and Zetron consoles, all provided and serviced by RACOM.
“You don’t have to be just a RACOM fan or just a Motorola fan. You can be a fan of both and save the taxpayers’ money,” he says. “You just want what’s best for everyone, and that is sometimes a mixture.”
The other reason Sandholdt chose RACOM was the nearby Pella office, which could handle all of his service needs.
According to Sandholdt, timing helped his office save hundreds of thousands of dollars. At the time he decided to upgrade, the state was putting a 400-foot digital tower up nearby. He also saved money with a mix of county funds and a $200,000 state grant.
Jason has the consoles and multi-band mobiles installed and operational. Next will be the new Harris XL-200 multi-band portable radios. He’ll first switch his department from VHF-conventional to VHF-digital P25, then wait for the state to complete and activate the tower later this year before making a full switch to the state’s 700 MHz P25. Jason plans to continue testing well into 2018.