Commissions OKs $4.5M for new radio system

Published 5:17 pm Tuesday, August 16, 2022

BY ROBERT SORRELL
Star Correspondent
The Carter County Commission approved $4.5 million for new radio communications equipment.
During its Monday meeting, the commission heard the new price estimate from Mark Ridings, the county’s communications director. The county plans to use money it has received from the American Recovery Plan funds to pay for the project.
Carter County has more than $6 million in funds from the ARP. Other funds are expected to be used for water projects and other needs in the county.
Ridings told commissioners that the current radios used by the Carter County Sheriff’s Office, constables, volunteer firefighters and other first responders cover about 60% of the county. He estimates that more than 85% of the county would be covered by new radios and towers through Motorola.
There are certain areas in the county that the current radios can’t be used due to rough topography and impenetrable buildings.
In addition to new Motorola radios, the project includes the construction and restoration of radio towers in the county.
The Health and Welfare Committee previously created a priority list for projects the county could fund with ARP funding, according to Commissioner Robert Acuff. He noted that the committee had placed communications as the top item on the list, but the committee only approved funding for $3.7 million.
Several commissioners, including Mark Blevins, said they were concerned Ridings presented the $4.5 million for the first time Monday rather than sooner. Ridings said the numbers were recently calculated.
Commissioner Isaiah Grindstaff, a Sheriff’s Office employee, voiced his concerns about the planned system. He said he is worried the costs may increase and there may still be issues that radios could not work in certain areas, such as the jail. He noted that new radios are needed.
Commissioners Gary Bailey and Travis Hill both said that the county had hired Ridings because he’s an expert in radio communications and the commission should listen to his recommendations.
“I think we need to go forward and get this done because constables need it, the sheriff’s department needs it, the fire departments need it, and if we don’t do something we wait 8, 9, 10 months again and we start over,” Bailey said.
The commission approved the $4.5 million price, which includes $48,000 for the fire department pagers.
Commissioners also heard a motion from the Budget Committee to provide $103,800 for Ridings and the communications department.
“The county had no communications department,” said Ridings. “I have no tools.”
Ridings said he needs equipment to test the new radios.
A request from the Hampton Valley Forge Volunteer Fire Department for $20,000 also passed. Six commissioners voted against the motion, but enough commissioners approved it. The department recently opened a new station at U.S. Highway 19E and Simerly Creek Road and is constructing another station in Valley Forge.

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