CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Kanawha County Emergency Radio Network System is getting a much needed upgrade.

The Kanawha County Commission agreed to a contract from the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department, Ambulance Authority and Homeland Security and Emergency Management Department during Thursday’s commission meeting. Those departments said after conducting a recent study of the system and its operations with the help of a communications company, an upgrade to the system was necessary.

“You agree that this is something that we need to with our radio system?” newly-appointed commission president Lance Wheeler asked.

“Yes I do,” said Homeland Security & Emergency Management Deputy Director David Armstrong

“Let’s beat this horse one last time, why?”

“Because I’m getting calls about certain areas not being able to talk on the radio. We’re pretty much putting band-aids on at this point to keep it up and running.”

Armstrong said the current system has been in place since the late 1970’s and needs a major upgrade.

“We’re actually going to pick up additional coverage area if this system is installed,” Armstrong said.

Commissioner Wheeler echoed the plea from Armstrong that the system needs to be improved. He said the commission has also received calls from first responders that they can’t communicate well in certain areas of the county, which is crucial in some instances.

“They’re telling us that they’re having a hard time communicating with 911and communicating with each other and we know that it’s very bad if they can’t do that,” said Wheeler.

Upgrades will be made to towers to lessen dead spots. Commissioner Wheeler said this new equipment

Kanawha County Sheriff Mike Rutherford said across all of the emergency services, having a working radio system could be the difference between life and death.

“If a firefighter gets inside of a building and they can’t communicate to others or to those in the trucks, or if a police officer gets into an area with no communication and they need help, it could be disastrous,” Sheriff Rutherford said.

Kanawha County Chief Deputy Joe Crawford called this upgrade to the system “critical.”

The commission said it has received a payment plan for the project which is just over $3 million. The first payment of $300,000 is due by January 31. Separate payments are expected to be made over time including before the contract is signed and then after the installation of the new system. The commission said the installation process could take up to a year.

Commissioners discussed using carry-over funds in the public safety fund that has not been allocated yet as a way to fund the project.