County to seek money for modern telecom

Published 5:33 pm Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Decatur County leaders plan to seek money that could bring the rural corner of Southwest Georgia more access to modern telecommunications systems, including a new E-911 system.

At their Tuesday night meeting, the Decatur County Board of Commissioners tentatively agreed to hire a grant writer that would seek out millions in federal government funding that would pay for an upgrade to the county’s E-911 system.

County commissioners agreed to hire Alan Silver, president of Silver Business Development of Savannah, Ga., pending a review of his references. Silver would be paid $1,500 upfront to prepare a grant application and would receive five percent of the total grant amount, if it is awarded.

The agreement is focused on obtaining up to $2.5 million for an 800-megahertz public safety communications infrastructure and equipment to serve as part of a regional, interoperable system, County Finance Director Carl Rowland said. Decatur and Grady counties, which have a joint E-911 system, are currently served by VHF (very high frequency) radio signals. While VHF is used for FM radio and over-the-air television broadcasts, among other applications, it is a technology that dates back to World War II.

How new system could help

Rowland said the quality of E-911 radio communications in the two counties was not ideal due to the Federal Communications Commission splitting up the radio frequency spectrum, which causes signals from elsewhere to “bleed over” into local transmissions, sometimes causing confusion. The 800 Mhz technology would allow many users to have their own two-way radio channels using only a few frequencies, with the help of computer-controlled transmitter towers.

Rowland said that functionality would enable emergency response agencies to more easily talk to one another in the event of an emergency, either in Decatur County or wherever they may be sent. In March 2007, local firefighters and law enforcement officers spent up to 24 hours helping with disaster recovery after tornadoes caused multiple deaths and widespread damage in nearby Baker and Sumter counties.

Rowland said he had approached Grady and Seminole counties about participating in the grant application and said the City of Bainbridge, whose Public Safety and Public Works departments use the older radio technology, has also expressed interest. Local schools, law enforcement and fire departments could all use the new radio system, Rowland said.

Other business

In other business, county commissioners:

Denied, by unanimous request, a request from property owners to close Wheeler Road in southwestern Decatur County. Patton said the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, which created the Silver Lake Wildlife Management Area earlier this year, opposed the request because the road served as an access road onto the Hog Farm Tract, which is part of the Silver Lake WMA.

Approved a memorandum of understanding with DaniMer Scientific regarding the ownership and usage of 10.27 acres of land at the Industrial Air Park for the company’s proposed new manufacturing facility. Under the agreement, if DaniMer stops using the facility, the land would revert to the county and the company’s use of the land could not interfere with operation of the airport, Patton said.

Acknowledged a request presented by Jack Brinkley, a native of Decatur County who now resides in Columbus, Ga., who seeks to rename either Arnold Road or Bettstown Community Road for his late mother, Pauline Brinkley. According to Mr. Brinkley, who said he grew up on Arnold Road—where other family members still reside—his mother raised five children by herself and helped manage the lunchroom at the local school for many years. Rich said county officials would research the feasibility of the request.

Appointed Dean Free, a veteran and active Rotary Club member, to the County Planning Board. Commissioner Mosely, who nominated Free, said he believed Free had related experience which will be beneficial. Free will serve out the year remaining in the term of Dr. Margaret Smith, then the appointment will have to be reconsidered, Patton explained.

Approved, by unanimous vote, a low bid of $31,588.53 from Dean Chrysler of Bainbridge for a Dodge Ram 3500 which will be used as a service truck for the Road Department. The truck will replace one that had been purchased used 14 years ago and was in poor condition, Patton said.

Approved, by unanimous vote, a low bid of $40,524 from Reynolds-Warren of Lakeland, Ga., for a Rosco RB-48 sweeper to be used at the Industrial Air Park. The new truck will be paid for with SPLOST receipts, while the county’s existing sweeper will be transferred to the Road Department, Patton said.

Approved, by unanimous vote, a low bid of $17,050 from Nichols Tractor of Bainbridge for a John Deere 990 tractor.

Brennan Leathers can be reached by e-mail at brennan.leathers@thepostsearchlight.com, or by telephone at (229) 246-2827, Ext. 115.