Emergency Management Services Director Chuck Almond, Sheriff Melvin Andrews and Elberton Police Chief Mark Welsh talked to commissioners at last Thursday’s work session about the importance of transitioning the county’s communications system to digital.
Then at Monday night’s monthly county commission meeting Almond, this time flanked by Elbert County Fire Chief Rick Mewborn, again stressed the practical importance of buying the new communications system.
According to Almond, the Federal Communications Commission has cut the county’s bandwidth in the past and will do so again in the very near future.
As the bandwidth is cut, so is the distance signals travel.
According to Almond and Andrews, the county is already experiencing some signal loss in certain areas and that will only increase with the next round of bandwidth cuts.
“We don’t really have a choice,” said Mewborn on Monday night. “We’re going to have to do it.”
According to Almond, the plan he put before commissioners will incorporate three of the four towers already in service, replace one and then add another tower to better cover the county.
The county would also purchase digital VHF Wide Area Channel pairs from the U.S. Coast Guard through a company called Mobile Communications of Hall.
The county will also be required to purchase new radio equipment as well.
The entire system is expected to cost approximately $600,000. Elbert County would be responsible for $450,000; the board of education would be responsible for $100,000 and the Elbert County Board of Education would chip in $50,000.
Almond suggested using SPLOST funds. At Almond’s recommendation, commissioners took the first step on Monday by approving the VHF pairs purchase for $30,000. Almond stated he had already discussed the matter with the City of Elberton and with the Elbert County Board of Education and they were proceeding with the plan.
The new system will be utilized by the Elbert County Sheriff’s Office, Elbert County Emergency Services, the Elberton Police Department, the Elbert County Fire Department, the Elberton Fire Department and the Elbert County Board of Education. The new digital communication system is not the only project slated for the proposed 2017 SPLOST vote. Thomas presented commissioners with a tentative list to be placed on the ballot on May 24. The list must be finalized by the end of January in order to qualify for the May primary election. The only glitch in the proposal is that the county is anticipating taking in $7,840,000 for their portion of the SPLOST (if approved by voters) and the list Thomas presented would require $8,328,000. Commissioners are expected to vote on the list in January.
• Adopted changes to the retirement plan to align it with the changes made by the state. There were no changes to benefits in the action.
• Approved moving the district attorney’s checking account bookkeeping to the county office. According to the district attorney’s office, the move gives the D.A. more transparency.