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Old radios no longer cutting it for El Paso County Sheriff's office

Updated: Friday, July 19 2013, 03:11 PM MDT

By: Melissa Gundersen

EL PASO, Texas -- Radios are a vital part in saving lives for the El Paso County Sheriff's Office.

Deputies are saying they have a major problem -- their radios don't usually work.

Enrique Cortez has been a deputy with the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office for 28 years. He recalls countless times where he's gone on an emergency call by himself, tried to use his radio to request backup, and then found out it didn't work.

"Prepare for the worst, hope for the best. I guess that's the best way to put it," said Cortez.

Deputies have no signal in about 75 percent of the county. Some dead zones include Far East Montata and parts of the Lower valley, just to name a few.

Problems got even worse for deputies this January, after the federal government reduced signal ranges.

Now, the Sheriff's Office is asking county commissioners to approve a $10 million upgrade for digital radios. Sheriff Richard Wiles said new radios would boost performance. Their radios now only cover about a quarter of the county. These new radios would cover about 90 percent.

"I'm not asking to build a new building and put my name on it. There's no luxury here. These are items that are needed by the Sheriffs Department,” said Wiles.

Wiles said El Paso is the last county in Texas to make the switch from analog to digital. The City of El Paso will be online come October. To allow county radios to communicate with city ones, Wiles said they need to make the switch now.

The ultimate decision comes down to the commissioners because they need to invest the money. Wiles said after incentives and bond money, the price tag is upwards of $10 million. Commissioners have already approved $4.5 million, but according to Commissioner Vincent Perez, he doesn’t know where the remaining $5.8 million will come from.

Perez says that money is not in their budget.

The issue will go in front of commissioners Monday morning for a vote.

Old radios no longer cutting it for El Paso County Sheriff's office

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