An estimate to upgrade communication abilities of Warren County’s emergency responders has increased from $250,000 to $2.5 million.
Richard Myers, previous owner of Communication’s Evolutions, has made a second presentation before members of the county Budget and Finance Committee urging them to consider allocating funds to improve emergency communications in the county.
“I’m here to touch base with you,” said Myers. “We found out last week, or over the weekend, that COVID funds can be used for communications. We need to use some of our COVID money to improve communications. The sheriff’s department and the fire departments in the county are in desperate need of an upgrade.”
Warren County government was notified it will receive $8 million in American Rescue Plan funds. Those funds were provided to eligible state, local, territorial, and tribal governments to respond to the COVID-19 emergency and bring back jobs.
According to county Finance Department director Justin Cotten, the county is yet to receive any of the $8 million.
To date, Warren County government has received $600,000 in CARES act money and $1.02 million in Governor’s Grant money. Approximately $375,000 of the grant money has been obligated to projects which leaves almost $650,000.
Notification was also given that Warren County would receive $448,000 in additional Governor’s Grant money during fiscal year 2021-22. Those monies, also, have yet to be received.
Myers came before the county last year when commissioners were considering how best to spend $1.02 million. At that time, he urged the county to allocate a portion of those funds to a communication upgrade and offered $250,000 as an estimate.
With $8 million, said Myers, the county should consider a better upgrade.
“There are several ways to go, but we are looking at about three different options,” he said. “They can range anywhere from $2.5 million down. If you go on the state’s system, you are probably looking at that much money. You’d have to change all your radios. I just wanted to make you aware of that so we can work closely with you and have you set aside some of the COVID money. This might be the only time we’ll get the chance to do it in our lifetime.”
An upgrade in radio capabilities is needed to alleviate dead spots where emergency responders are having difficulty communicating with each other and E911 dispatchers.
Commissioner Scott Rubley asked if the high end of $2.5 million would guarantee service throughout the county, to which Myers replied, “That would be going onto the THP statewide system.”
Myers said he’s “basically out of the radio business” after selling that portion of his company. However, he’s still concerned about the county’s emergency communication infrastructure.
“The lower end of it, I’d say you need $1 million to really do a good job of it. We’ll know more in a few days,” said Myers, who asked if the coronavirus funds are still available or they had been assigned.
Rubley replied, “There’s some new money that we haven’t even touched yet.”
“If we are ever going to get the chance to do it in our lifetime, now might be the time,” said Myers.
Except for the $375,000 previously allocated, commissioners have yet to decide how to spend any of the CARES act, Governor’s Grant or American Rescue Plan monies it currently has or is slated to receive.