The early seeds of the Southeast Georgia Regional Radio Network were planted in 1992 by the City of Savannah and Chatham County when each government purchased Single site 800MHz Motorola Smartnet II Trunked Radio Systems. The County purchased their system to support Police operations and the City purchased their system to support the Water and Sewer Maintenance Bureau’s operations.
The capabilities of the two systems did not go unnoticed for very long and in 1994 negotiations began between the City of Savannah and Chatham County. The team which was for the most part led by Robert Davis from the City and Lewis Leonard from Chatham County began to explore the possibility of expanding and combining the networks. The negotiations proceeded throughout the year and into 1995 when an agreement was reached. In the agreement the City and County agreed to build and equally share a state of the art radio system that would build upon the licensing and the systems currently owned by each. The result was the 1996 Intergovernmental agreement and the building of the $6.3 Million four site Motorola SmartZone v2.03 radio network. The network included two new radio towers four new buildings and all of the equipment necessary to operate the system. A large number of the portable radios purchased for use on the network were purchased from the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games following the few weeks of use the radios received during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and Savannah. Nearly all of those radios are still in use on the SEGARRN system today.
At some point all technology systems require upgrading. Such was the case in 2003 when the v2.03 system was nearing the end of the technology lifecycle. At that time the City of Savannah with the Support of Chatham County sought and was awarded a “no match” $4.7million Department of Homeland Security, Office of Domestic Preparedness Grant for the purpose of, among other things, upgrading the existing v2.03 radio network to v4.1 and replacing approximately 750 portable radios with digital portable radios. The v4.1 upgrade completely replaced the Master Computer Site, and the South Side radio equipment. The upgrade additionally added Motorola ASTRO Digital and DES/OFB encryption capability to the network. Upon Completion of the upgrade in 2005 the City and County had each contributed approximately $2.0 Million additional in local dollars to complete the upgrade and system expansion cost of approximately $6.2 Million.
One other significant event occurred in 2005, the network in Savannah and Chatham County became regional when Effingham County joined the network and placed two additional radio sites on the air. Effingham funded the system expansion and purchase of user equipment with approximately one million dollars in grant funding and one million in local tax dollars.
If we pause for a minute and look back to the beginning in 1992, at that time both single site systems had, in total, about 400 radio users on the systems combined. In 2005 the v4.1 radio network was in use by all government agencies in The City of Savannah, Chatham and Effingham Counties. The radio network also served other agencies such as the Georgia State Patrol, DNR, Coast Guard, Probation and Parole and many other smaller government agencies in the Region. In total the system supported approximately 3000 users.
Interest in beginning and supporting the formation of a Coastal Georgia Radio Network began in earnest in 2006. The seeds of the SEGARRN working group were put together by Robert Davis, Lewis Leonard, and Val Ashcraft from the City of Savannah, Chatham County and Effingham County respectively. The group’s purpose was to sell the idea to the neighboring counties. The ability to sell the ideas was driven by the fact that as a large group we were in an excellent position to seek and be awarded significant sums of Federal grant funds to assist the region in building the network out along the Georgia coast.
With support from nearly every county along the Georgia coast and several inland counties the SEEGARN group, in 2008, applied for and received $7.2 million in Public Safety Interoperable Communications (PSIC) grant funding from the US Department of Justice. The PSIC funding and the associated local match dollars and additional local dollars resulted in an upgrade of the network to the next generation mobile radio technology and a complete upgrade of the radio network in Savannah and Chatham County. The funds additionally provided the necessary technology to seamlessly bridge the gap between the two technology generations allowing analog radios purchased in 1992 to operate and communicate with digital radios purchased since 2004. The PSIC grant, matching funds and additional local funds totaling approximately $ 14 Million completely replaced the Master computer site and upgraded the network to Motorola ASTRO 25 SmartZone V7.7, added two sites in Bryan County, two Sites in Liberty County, two Sites in Glynn County, and a single site in Bulloch County. Some of this infrastructure is still under construction. (As of August, 2010).
The network presently serves approximately 4500 users and is anticipated to have 6000 users by the end of 2012.