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911 funds solve problem

JACKSON – There may be a light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to Northampton County’s radio communication problems.

On Monday, the Northampton County Board of Commissioners granted permission to Communications Director Ronald P. Storey Jr. to move ahead on the Radio Improvement Project, which would help to enhance radio transmissions in the county.

“Radio communication to all areas of Northampton County has always been a problem,” said Storey. “The shape of the county and the difference in elevations are the primary obstacles of good radio communication.”

Storey described the county with various topography with the east side of the county being lower in sea level than the Lake Gaston area where there are more hills and valleys.

According to Storey, the easiest solution to solving this communication problem is to install three voter/repeater systems in three areas in the county to widen the coverage.

Since the county does not own any towers, tower space will have to be rented on existing towers that are in appropriate areas. Storey said those areas are Rich Square, Gaston and the Diamond Grove area.

Storey said the current communications tower in Jackson would send a signal out to those repeater towers, which would send a signal back. The return of another signal to the three towers by the Jackson tower would be stronger and so on.

Radio Communications Company from Cary will be doing the work. Storey, along with County Manager Wayne Jenkins, assured the board the company has a sound record as they have contracted with the state in the past.

“I think they’re all right,” quipped Storey.

Commission Vice Chairwoman Fannie Greene (D-5th) asked if the towers would help with “dead spots” in the Lake area.

“Hopefully this will be able to get over and in the valleys,” said Storey.

Storey reported to the commissioners there would be an initial cost of $112,000 and a yearly reoccurring rent, phone and maintenance fees of $30,000.

However, Storey said with the newly combined 911 wireless and wired fund with a flat 70 cents across the state along with the roll over of the older 911 wired fund (which is eligible to be used for the project) the costs will be accommodated.

Though the 911 fund had not been totaled at the time of the meeting, Storey said the ending balance will be enough to cover this initial project as well as paying the rent, phone and maintenance fees for several years.

“All the money is here,” he said. “It won’t cost the county anything.”

Storey added it would cost $585,000 for the county to build towers.

“It’s the best bet to rent,” he said.

Commissioner James Hester (D-1st) made a motion to allow the project to move forward. Commissioner Virginia Spruill (D-2nd) offered a second.

The motion passed without objection.