Commission asked to spend $ 509,000 on state COVID stimulus on emergency radio system | Rogersville


Hawkins County Commissioners will be asked on Monday to allocate nearly $ 510,000 in unrestricted COVID stimulus funds for upgrading the county’s emergency radio system from analog to digital.

The allocation was recommended on September 9 by the ad hoc committee, which was created to help the commission determine how best to spend the $ 11.1 million in federal COVID stimulus funding, as well as $ 509,858 in COVID stimulus funding. state COVID stimulus funding.

On Monday, the committee’s budget committee voted 5-1 with one abstention to convey this ad hoc recommendation to the entire committee.

Budget committee chairman Mike Herrell informed the committee on Monday that ad hoc committee chairman Randy Patterson had resigned. Herrell appointed Josh Gilliam to replace Patterson on the ad hoc committee.

Patterson announces his resignation after the September 9 ad hoc committee. During that meeting, the committee voted on a split decision to recommend the use of the state’s $ 509,858 COVID stimulus funds for the county’s emergency radio system.

These state COVID funds are unlimited.

Commissioner Mark DeWitte, who sits on the ad hoc committee, told the budget committee on Monday that although it was a split decision, he believed “they all agreed” with the recommendation now.

Ad hoc committee member Woody Boyd, who voted against the recommendation on September 9, told the budget committee on Monday that he now approves.

“It’s time to move forward on this radio system”

The County Commission has already allocated $ 425,000 to upgrade the county’s emergency radio system, including $ 250,000 in grants. Much of this project involves improvements to antenna towers to reduce radio dead zones in the more rural and mountainous areas of the county.

Equipment for the radio project was slow to arrive due to COVID-related delays in the supply chain.

The state stimulus of $ 509,858 would add to the $ 425,000 and upgrade the radio system from analog to digital. The digital upgrade will further reduce dead zones and allow officers from different ends of the county to communicate with each other.

The reason for the September 9 split vote on the ad hoc committee was concern about other fire service needs that could also be met with this unrestricted public funding.

Since that Sept. 9 meeting, however, the county has learned that about $ 3.4 million of its $ 11.1 million in federal stimulus will also be unrestricted. The consensus was that many of these fire service needs can now be met with unrestricted federal funds.

“It’s time to move forward on this radio system, get it where it needs to be,” DeWitte told the budget committee on Monday. “There’s no point in the people who work on the towers coming back twice to change things when we go digital. “

“Their coverage area is going to be excellent”

Volunteer firefighters will remain on analogue radio systems after the digital switchover.

Mayor Jim Lee told the budget committee that volunteer firefighters will be equipped with dual-mode radios that communicate with digital and analog systems so they can communicate with police and EMS which will be on digital systems.

“The system we’re putting in place right now is analog,” Lee said. “Everything we offer now is analog. But when I ordered the repeater system, I ordered analog / digital. You can do either. It gave us a chance to go digital later.

Lee added, “Now is a good opportunity to go digital before even installing the system. What we are putting in place now will be the best radio system this country has ever had. As for the fire services still in analog, their coverage area is going to be excellent. The only thing DMR (digital) does is add connectivity for a unit on the lower end (county) so that it can communicate with a unit on the upper end.

“In no rush to spend federal money”

This $ 3.4 million in unrestricted federal stimulus is compensation for the county’s lost revenue due to COVID.

CFO Eric Buchanan recommended not spending federal stimulus funds until he and his staff have completed a 10-week seminar on the rules and regulations of those funds. The state is also opening a website that will review spending to ensure it meets state and federal guidelines.

The county has until 2024 to spend federal funds and can also review lost revenue from COVID each year for an additional three years. Buchanan said it was possible that over the next three years, most, if not all, of the $ 11.1 million in federal stimulus packages would go unrestricted due to the continued loss of revenue.

DeWitte noted that the ad hoc committee has the idea that the federal stimulus will not be spent at this time. The committee’s goal is to collect requests and then make recommendations to the county commission regarding federal funds.

“We know we are in no rush to spend federal money,” DeWitte said. “It might sound like a rush to spend state money, but in my opinion we need to get this radio system now, instead of going one way and then going another and spending money. the extra money. “

DeWitte added, “The money we have allocated for the commission is spent on the tour sites. There are no new radios in this $ 425,000. I know it feels like we’re dragging our feet on these towers. Were not. There is material on the way to make them. I just don’t want to see the tricks have to be done twice.

The Ray Jessee Commission expressed the only no, citing the concern that radios for fire departments were not included in this allocation. Herrell abstained, saying he needed more information.

The next meeting of the ad hoc committee is set for October 5 at 6 p.m. at the Hawkins County Courthouse.


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