Commissioner: Communications director should have been hired sooner

Published 7:48 pm Tuesday, May 3, 2022

As Carter County nears the deadline for selecting a new emergency communications provider for the county, at least one commissioner regrets proceeding with the project without a communications director in place.
“I really wished I had listened months ago and moved forward with hiring a communications officer because now I see how necessary that was,” Commission Chairwoman Ginger Holdren said during Monday’s financial management committee meeting. “Someone should have been in place to be working on our cooperating agreements on these towers, because as we come together this week to talk about the two groups that can do the project, we don’t have our preliminary work done. We are not really ready to make that decision this Friday and I don’t know what we can do about it and I am very concerned.”
Two companies have responded with proposals for a new communications system with both coming in around $3.7 million. They are Communications International (CI) and the state system which utilizes Motorola.
The commission hoped to select a provider this week, and both companies have agreed to extend their deadline. The proposals will be discussed in a special called meeting at 5 p.m. Friday.
And Mark Ridings , the newly hired communications director, will be present for the meeting, although he may not be in a position to answer much-needed questions.
“I should have listened to Isaiah (Grindstaff) and Mayor (Patty) Woodby, who was trying to tell me months ago that we needed a communications officer. I have learned a lesson,” said Holdren. “It was a premature RFP — it should have never been put out until we had our ducks in a row. Friday night they will not be able to answer those questions. It’s up to Carter County to answer those questions.”
The county still must develop agreements with tower providers before the equipment needed for the new system can be installed on the towers.
Woodby said on Tuesday that she didn’t want to comment on the issue surrounding the towers until after Friday’s meeting.
She said that she was pushing for the hire of a communications officer months ago because she was trying to work through the agreements and realized she didn’t have the knowledge necessary to do so.
“The new officer will come in and will have to go backward I believe,” Woodby said.

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