Roberts’ radio bill passes

DENVER – Legislators took a step Wednesday toward fixing the state’s troubled emergency radio system, a top priority of Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango.

The Senate passed Roberts’ Senate Bill 127 on a 33-2 vote. It tells the state Department of Public Safety to come up with a business plan to fix the radio system by Dec. 31.

“This is essential for whether it is wildfire, flood, school shootings, theater shootings. It’s critical that our first responders be able to talk to each other,” Roberts said.

That’s not the case today. Colorado began installing a statewide digital emergency system in the 1990s, but in many cases coverage is poor and it is not usable, especially in mountainous areas.

Fixing it and adding towers could potentially cost tens of millions of dollars.

In a separate bill sponsored by the Joint Budget Committee, legislators plan to set aside $3.5 million a year for the next 12 years to upgrade the system.

Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, said Roberts’ bill fits well with the JBC’s funding plan.

“I know it’s very important in her district. It’s important statewide, and that’s why the budget committee did prioritize this,” Steadman said.

Roberts’ bill next goes to the House, while the Senate is expected to vote on the funding bill this week.