After about a year of messing around I got the old business repeater up and running as a Ham repeater. I had to buy a different receive radio and a new controller, but everything is up and running.
The repeater started life as a business repeater. There is a mandate from the FCC to narrow-band business repeaters to open up frequency space. Ask around, you may be able to get one for a good deal. I got this one for free. I built it to use with the Boy Scouts (as well as other occasions). The business knew the primary reason was a training tool and so they donated it to the cause.
However, business repeaters do not have the same identification requirements as ham repeaters and most business repeaters do not have controllers that are capable of identifying every 10 minutes (FCC requirement for Hams). So a new controller was needed. I purchased an NHRC-micro controller for about $160 if memory serves. Wiring it up was a bit of a pain as is typical when dealing with wiring harnesses with different color codes. However, if you are decently organized you should be more than capable.
I did run into an issue with the radios. The old radios in the unit were not able to be programmed to interface with the controller in all available modes of operation. So I picked up a newer radio. This cost $150. Which was about half of what they are selling for on Flea-bay.
Once I got it programmed correctly, I had to puzzle through the controller instructions. They did a great job of explaining how to change a setting or option. But there was no detail at all concerning what exactly the settings and options actually did. (Typical technical writers issue where the writer assumes the reader knows the same amount of information hat they do). After an evening of messing about and testing...I am now the owner of a functioning repeater.
With the portable mast that I have I have about a 5 mile range for comms. Easily covers the immediate area (and I'm down in a hole topologically!) The mast used to be the aluminum poles that held up camouflage netting. A few mods and the system can be used for my repeater, the local 2 meter repeaters as well as support for a dipole for HF. Great thing to have during field day or other communication events. Reasonably portable and one person can put it up with a bit of practice and knowledge.
I picked up some old handhelds that couldn't be narrow banded as well. So with a little TLC and maybe some new batteries I could have a pretty good setup.
Just thought I'd share. All in all, it was a damn fine day! Now for a brew while I figure out what I want to learn next!