Oconee Sheriff's Office, Watkinsville Police Now Using New Digital Communications System
The regional Oconee Area Radio System allows law enforcement and firefighters to communicate over a secure, digital network.
It's been in the works for years, and at 9 a.m. Monday, the Oconee County Sheriff's Office and Watkinsville Police officially made the switch to the Oconee Area Radio System (OARS), a digital network that allows agencies to communicate seamlessly and securely with one another in real time.
Baldwin, Walton, Morgan, and Greene counties are already members of OARS and Athens-Clarke, the University of Georgia, and other agencies are planning to join, Oconee County Sheriff Scott Berry said.
Technicians are installing radios in vehicles and deputies and also being equipped with pre-programmed portable radios that function in over 98 percent of the county.
According to Berry, there are only two other regions in the state communicating through digital systems. They are in the Savannah and Coweta areas.
"This is cutting edge, state of the art," he said.
Oconee County Fire Department personnel are also being equipped with radios and receiving training, and will join law enforcement in using the OARS system later this year, Berry said.
A $1.2 million grant from the Homeland Security Grant Program and special-purpose, local-option sales tax monies funded the infrastructure and equipment in Oconee County.
Look for more details about the digital communications system in a story tomorrow.