RALEIGH, N.C. — First responders say their biggest need is a radio system that allows them to talk to other police, fire and EMS workers. On Thursday, the Governor's Crime Commission voiced support for a statewide initiative designed to do that.
The estimated cost of so-called VIPER transmitters and equipment will run close to $200 million, which does not include the radios. State leaders are considering Homeland Security money, bonds and higher taxes.
Some local agencies worry it will be too expensive to link into the VIPER radio system.
"We absolutely can pay for it. Can we afford not to pay for it, I think, is the better question," said Linda Hayes, chairman of the Crime Commission.
Another challenge is persuading every statewide agency to connect to VIPER. Under the VIPER plan, only Motorola equipment will work.
Technology consultant Bill Ott believes the state should look at more flexible systems that work like wireless computer networks.
"There are newer, more effective technologies available that should at least be investigated, that can be added onto the infrastructure they already have in place," Ott said.
Even with the obstacles, the Highway Patrol hopes to have the VIPER radio system completed within four years.