Okaloosa approves $19.7M loan for new emergency public safety communication system

Okaloosa County

CRESTVIEW, Fla. (WKRG) — An almost $30-million project will connect the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) to its nine partner agencies during emergencies.

“In the event of a mass shooting or even a school shooting or mall shooting, we have multiple agencies that will respond, and we couldn’t talk to each other, we had to fix that problem,” Sheriff Eric Aden said.

More than 2,000 radios and 12 radio towers will be placed around the county to better serve residents in an emergency.

Aden says the current system at the 9-1-1 dispatch center and in the deputy radios was installed in 1995. Aden says the purchase approved by the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) will give a necessary upgrade.

“I had the same radio that I was issued 20 years ago, and literally you have to hold it in the air and lift a leg up to get a signal and that is not the way to do business,” Aden said.

The BCC approved to borrow almost $20 million from Trustmark National Bank. $2.3 million is coming from CARES Act funding.

“It is a big price tag — $20 million to $30 million, that’s a huge price tag. But what do you put a price on a life?” Aden said.

OCSO says the towers will take three years to complete. Aden says the new system should be up and running in 2024.

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