Wayne County’s commissioners learned $1.5 million likely won’t be enough to solve the county’s emergency radio communications problems.

Barry Ritter, a Wayne County Council member and owner of Ritter Strategic Services, provided commissioners an update about the Hoosier Enduring Legacy Program project during their June 5 meeting. Ritter estimated costs of two communication towers plus pagers, mobile radios and portable radios for volunteer fire departments will exceed the budgeted amount.

The HELP plan reserved $1.5 million from the county’s American Rescue Plan Act contribution to support the communications project. A study, also financed through HELP, confirmed radio coverage deficiencies in the northeast and southwest portions of the county. The solution is adding two towers with 800 megahertz capabilities and upgrading volunteer fire department communication equipment. County law enforcement already converted to the state’s 800 megahertz system.

Ritter, whose company has been retained as a consultant to facilitate the project, introduced commissioners to Grant Phillips of TowerKing Communications, an Ohio-based company that builds and owns communication towers. TowerKing could build the needed two towers and lease the county tower space. Phillips said TowerKing currently owns 80 towers, and it is responsible for maintenance of the towers it owns.

In this early stage of discussion, Phillips said the company would likely build 340-foot guyed towers, with the county’s equipment located 250 or 300 feet high on the tower. If TowerKing finds other tenants to place equipment on the towers, the county’s lease costs decrease. He said the tower sites would likely meet the needs of other communications companies.

Ritter and Phillips identified one tower site as the southwest portion of the Wayne County Highway Department’s location west of Centerville. That spot is currently just grass that the highway department mows, although there is a smaller tower already on the highway department’s property. If the county provides TowerKing land, the county’s lease payment would be lower.

Possible locations in the county’s northwest have also been scouted. The 340-foot towers would have three guy wires extending 170 feet from the center of the tower.

Ritter asked commissioners to allow Phillips to compile information and return with a proposal that includes costs. Commissioners voted 3-0 in favor of continuing to explore this tower option.

Palm Harbor pays

Palm Harbor Villages Inc. has paid $29,000 toward costs incurred by the county and city of Richmond to remove deteriorating mobile homes from the corner of Salisbury Road and U.S. 35.

Spivey Salvage cleaned the property for $30,384, a cost the city and county split after Palm Harbor refused to pay. Palm Harbor, which is based in Phoenix, Ariz., had been unaware of the mobile homes while selling the 3.023 acre property on contract.

The $29,000 comes from sale of the property.

Court chairs

During Wayne County Council’s June 5 meeting, council unanimously approved using American Rescue Plan Act dollars to purchase 15 chairs for Superior Court 2. The accepted bid is $7,873.82 from Office 360.

Commissioners had previously approved purchasing the chairs, but must now approve using ARPA money. Commissioner Jeff Plasterer updated council that the county has about $484,000 in uncommitted ARPA money. Council and commissioners have agreed that ARPA money spent to replace general fund expenditures, such as for the chairs, will be put in a line item for future project use. ARPA money must be committed by the end of the year.

Meetings canceled

The June 19 commissioners meeting and council/commissioners workshop have been canceled for the Juneteenth holiday.

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A version of this article appeared in the June 12 2024 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Mike Emery is a reporter and layout editor for the Western Wayne News.