New towers provide state radio service to central Pennington County

   A major upgrade of the South Dakota State Radio system is complete with the addition of the Black Hills radio tower project. For the first time, much of the central Black Hills has effective coverage and the ability for law enforcement and public safety agencies to communicate.

   The state of South Dakota deployed the statewide public safety digital radio system in 2002. Because of terrain issues, much of the central Black Hills, including Hill City, Keystone, Mount Rushmore and long stretches of US Highway 16 south of Rapid City, had little to no reliable coverage.

   In January 2020, Pennington County approached the State Bureau of Information and Technology about a jointly funded project to build three additional radio towers in central Pennington County. The 2021 legislature dedicated $2.4 million to purchasing the necessary equipment. Pennington County spent $600,000 to find and fund appropriate tower locations and oversee construction.

   “These areas were considered underserved by the South Dakota Public Safety Communications Council. We are proud to continue to enhance the network that is so vital to our First Responders and the safety of our fellow citizens,” says Jeff Clines, Commissioner of the Bureau of Information and Telecommunications.

   The State Radio expansion includes new towers in Rockerville, Hill City and Keystone and one existing Seth Bullock site also approved in the 2021 Legislative Session. State Radio is part of the Bureau of Information and Telecommunications. Construction began in the fall of 2021. In June of 2022, the new towers were completed and brought online.

   Emergency responders in central Pennington County immediately could use their mobile and car radios on the statewide radio system. Their belt-carried portable radios also connected. Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom says, “All First Responders in Hill City, Keystone and Hill City now have reliable access to state radio.”

   “We have known for many years the only way to solve the coverage issues in Central Pennington County, was to build new radio towers in those areas,” says Pennington County 911 Deputy Director Ted Rufledt, Jr. “Coverage far exceeds early predictions of where the new communications would be realized.”

   “This is another example of how local and state agencies can work together to solve long-standing, complex problems that greatly enhance public safety, says Pennington County 911 Director Kevin Karley.




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Jeff Gargano - Editor
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