LEWISBURG — On Wednesday, July 13, state and local officials gathered in Lewisburg to celebrate the new Multi-Agency Radio Communication System tower which went online in late June.
The Multi-Agency Radio Communication System (MARCS) is Ohio’s wireless, digital communication network for first responders, providing fiber optic and microwave technology that enables state, local, and federal agencies to communicate instantly with one another during public safety events.
Lewisburg Mayor Marsha Jones welcomed those in attendance at the special dedication and ribbon cutting.
“In 2018, a strategic plan was developed to improve the quality of life in our community,” Jones said. “Safety was identified as the number one priority. Lewisburg’s mission to develop a thriving community to lead by example, and present opportunities for others to contribute to a safe, healthy and desirable, desirable place to live, work, play and visit was defined.
“The village has a population of 1,800. Harrison Township that surrounds the village contains 2,800 residents, all who will directly benefit from this tower. Lewisburg Police are committed to protecting the lives and property of its citizens 24 hours, 365 days a year. Lewisburg’s Safety Department provides the highest level of fire suppression and emergency medical care, 24 hours 365 days a year. Fire services are provided to the Village of Lewisburg and Twin and Harrison Townships. Emergency Medical Services are provided to the Villages of Lewisburg and Verona and Twin in Harrison Townships. This MARCS tower assists all these entities with improved communication skills, creating a safer environment for our first responders.
“Thanks to all who contributed to making this improvement to the safety of our communities possible,” Jones concluded.
Village Manager Jeff Sewert thanked Mayor Jones and Lewisburg Village Council for their support in making the project a reality. “I do want to thank our mayor and village council,” Sewert said. “When we came to council with this project, it was like spot on: ‘let’s just make this happen. We have communication concerns in this part of the county. Let’s make it happen.’”
Sewert also thanked the state General Assembly, Preble County Commissioners, Sheriff Mike Simpson, and township trustees for helping in garnering the necessary funding to make the project complete.
“At the end of the day, like the mayor said, safety was our number one priority in our strategic plan in 2018. We worked hard with that plan, and I think this is an accomplishment today to make that happen. Again, thank you everybody, and God bless our safety services,” he said.
“This is everybody going for a common goal,” Sheriff Mike Simpson added. “And at the end, about two or three weeks ago, after this tower came online, when we went to our or manufacturing facilities, which is one of our major concerns, we found nowhere in those — including our schools here in town, nowhere we did not have communications in a 180 degree turn from where we were. So, it’s a big deal in not only Lewisburg, Harrison Township, southeast Darke County, northwest Montgomery County — all this area here is benefiting from this tower.”
“I want to thank the village for taking the lead on this,” Simpson said. “I think a lot of our success was because of the fact that they agreed to take the lead on this. And I’ll just say for our public safety people, this is a big deal. I think a lot of lives, as far as public safety people, are in better shape as we’re out doing our jobs every day because of the this tower standing here right now.”
Ohio Sen. Steve Huffman and Rep. Rodney Creech also spoke during the ceremony, as did Ben Thaeler on behalf of U.S. Congressman Warren Davidson’s office.
MARCS operates on a statewide platform capable of serving all first responders in Ohio. The system components are mobile voice, mobile data, and computer aided dispatch, providing GPS-based auto vehicle location, resource recommendation, and display. MARCS must operate at all times and under all weather conditions. The use of microwave and fiber optic technology allows the system to remain connected using multiple network connections provides redundancy to minimize the risk of an outage.
Approximately 360 towers like the new one in Lewisburg are located throughout Ohio to provide the infrastructure for connectivity to the MARCS system.
More than 2,800 public safety/public service agencies participate in MARCS. More than 135,000 radios and more than 1,800 unit-computers are on the system.
According to the state officials, the need for a modernized first-responder communication system was made apparent by the 1990 Shadyside flood and the 1993 Lucasville prison riot. These events revealed gaping holes in communication through existing radio systems, affecting the ability of emergency personnel to coordinate efforts during emergencies. Following these events, the Ohio General Assembly authorized the development of what was to become MARCS. Construction began in 2000, and in 2013 the state embarked on a $90 million upgrade because the system had reached its service capacity.
The state’s MARCS upgrade was completed in July 2015. This upgrade provided Ohio with an Internet-protocol based, integrated system with the coverage and capacity to provide voice and data service for up to 256,000 devices in the state, saving localities the millions of dollars that would have been required to modernize and maintain their communication systems. The upgraded MARCS platform was developed with a lifecycle that will keep it viable through 2039, according to state officials. The MARCS Program Office is responsible for the oversight, maintenance, and repair of the MARCS network, with a network operations center operating 24 hours, seven days a week.