The county’s new radio tower is being erected and according to sheriff Wallace Whittaker it won’t be long, maybe 60 days, before it is up and ready to go.
The county is waiting on the tower to launch its half a million dollar digital radio system, that is to be used by emergency agencies throughout the community including police and fire departments, emergency management, the ambulance service, detention center and coroner.
The county purchased the system in 2009, but the project has been slow getting off the ground due to unforeseen issues, There was a long delay when some emergency agencies found out they had to obtain their own funding to buy the digital radios that will work with the new system. Thanks to Kaye Simmons, grant writer for the city of Russellville, a lot of agencies got funding through a grant she wrote.
Other problems arose involving the vendor of the system and then most recently the tower ordeal.
At first the county, along with sheriff Whittaker, who has been overseeing the project, thought they could put the new radio equipment on an existing tower located on Reservoir Hill off of Armstrong Street in Russellville. This is where the county had it’s old radio equipment for years. They found it wasn’t as easy as they had thought which forced them into looking at alternatives.
Part of the trouble on the hill was old rusty abandon towers that could, if they fell, cause damage to the new system.
Whittaker spoke with Pleasant Hill Farms, owners of a tower already on Reservoir Hill, who offered to allow the county to take down their old tower and put a new one in its place as long as the farm could piggy back and use the tower as well. Cost for putting up the new tower to the county is a little over $62,000.
Fiscal Court advertised for bids because the project was over $20,000, but did not receive one. They declared the issue and emergency and accepted the bid of $62,000 Whittaker had first brought to the court.
The project, although sitting on the back burner for close to three years now, is considered an emergency or that is how it was presented by some of the emergency service workers in the community who were and are still having difficulties communicating with the Emergency Communications Center (ECC/911).
The current system is over 12 years old. A complaint from a fire chief in Auburn was the straw that broke the camels back causing the county to act on buying the new system. Chief Jeff Gregory told the court an arsonist had put a gun in his face and pulled the trigger. Fortunately for Gregory the gun misfired and as Gregory ran from the suspect he attempted to call dispatch, but could not get through.
Another issue caused the purchase, as federal guidelines required all analog systems to be switched over to digital by August of last year. But because the county has been experiencing issues getting the system up and running the deadline was extended for Logan County to October of this year.