FRONT ROYAL – The police department will soon have new radios to accompany its new office. The Town Council on Monday unanimously approved the $545,000 purchase of a Motorola radio system. 

The department has had its 800 LTR radio system for about two decades, and Chief Kahle Magalis previously said officers have “struggled with its shortcomings for years.”

He noted that the system is outdated and severely lacks coverage, which often results in officers having to lift radios skyward to obtain a signal, forming a “statue of liberty” stance that poses a potential threat to their safety.

The town purchased a P-25 radio system that Jerry Boyd, a  Motorola salesman, said during work sessions will become the standard for all agencies and fit the department’s needs for the foreseeable future.

The purchase will be made using the town’s general fund, but Town Manager Joe Waltz said staff would gather information regarding the possibility of either an external or internal loan.

The Town Council was previously set on loaning itself the money to avoid interest payments, which changed when Finance Director B.J. Wilson learned the town’s required three-month reserve balance would drop. 

This unexpected drop in contingency funds results from increases in the town’s required contributions to the Other Post-Employment Benefits and the Virginia Retirement System.

The town’s most recent bid for external loans carries $113,205 in interest spanning a decade. Wilson said he would return the loan to bid, but the town will not get offers until about October.

Waltz noted that it was critical for the town to approve the purchase as construction on the new police station progresses. 

According to previous reports, the Town Council agreed that it would ideally purchase the radios in coordination with the station’s construction, preventing the department from installing its old radio system only to replace it when a new one arrives.

Motorola representative Butch Bryant has said that installation of the new system will take about three months. With a substantial completion date for the new police station expected around year’s end, he said the town would ideally purchase the radios by the end of September.

Waltz said that the Town Council should discuss the loan options sometime in October or November.