Two more radio communication repeaters were reportedly installed last week after recent pleas by Marshall County officials and first responders pushed the fiscal court to take action.
Marshall County Judge-Executive Kevin Neal said at the fiscal court meeting last Tuesday that the repeaters went up the previous day.
“As far as our local infrastructure that the court has been doing and funding, when we talk about funding, that was completed yesterday to all three tower locations,” Neal said.
Marshall County Sheriff Eddie McGuire said at the meeting that not enough time had passed to determine how the new repeaters would affect the radios, and that more needed to be done. Though the county now has three tower sites up, he said the county actually needs five. He suggested potentially placing repeaters on temporary sites to generate as much coverage as possible.
Neal felt it would be unwise to put expensive equipment on non-permanent sites where they might be damaged, though insurance would probably cover them. He also stated that provocation studies should be conducted to determine where the dead spots are in the county, and that the next step is to determine the usability of the sheriff’s office’s portable radios.
McGuire did not disagree, however he stressed that the fiscal court should keep pursuing the issue until it’s resolved.
“We have to keep moving forward,” he said. “It can’t be a year process again.”
He also noted that the three repeaters only affect the channel the sheriff’s office uses and does not help other first responder agencies. Neal said a grant has been approved for three fire repeaters and one EMS repeater, though no time frame was given.
Marshall County’s first responders have experienced radio issues and limited radio coverage for years. McGuire and other first responders have consistently stated the dangers of not having a reliable radio system and that lives rely on it to function properly.
The situation came to a head in recent weeks as the fiscal court continued funding the regional 911 center project while leaving first responders in the dark on the radio infrastructure itself. McGuire organized a petition, which was signed by 80% of the county’s first responders saying they had “no confidence” in E911 Director Christ Freeman or the direction 911 was going.
McGuire also held a public forum on Sept. 10 at Benton City Park to inform the community face-to-face on the radio matters. The day before the forum, the first repeater was installed.
The fiscal court also voted on a variety of other matters at the meeting.
• A motion to pay off the Southwest One Land Debt failed after a 2-2 vote. Neal and District 1 Commissioner Justin Lamb voted in favor of paying the debt. District 2 Commissioner Kevin Spraggs and District 3 Commissioner Monti Collins voted against it. Collins felt there were too many unknowns with the current economy to pay it off at this time. Spraggs also felt with COVID-19 and the radio issue that paying off the debt could wait.
• The court unanimously approved a new hire, Jason Neal, for the road department. Judge Neal noted that he and Jason Neal are unrelated.
• Spraggs and County Clerk Tim York were approved annual training incentives pursuant to KRS 64.5275(6). Spraggs had completed two training units and would be paid $2,156.30. York had completed four and would be paid $4,312.60.
• The court unanimously voted to leave the general fund tax rate unchanged ($9.40).
• The court approved a special called meeting at 11:45 a.m. on Sept. 28.
• The court tabled a decision regarding a bid on the courthouse roof until Sept. 29.
• The court approved both Neal’s appointees for the library board (Nancy Petty), Jonathan Creek Water District board (Ron Davis), Refuse board (Bruce Lyles), and the PVA Appeal board (Marty Wiles).
• The court also approved an interfund transfer with a transient tax of $12,985.33.
• The court unanimously approved the bidding out of repairs for one of the county’s oldest ambulances. The total cost of repairs is approximated at $121,848.
• An extension was requested by Rivercrest Engineering, Inc. in regards to the Southwest One water and sewer project. The court approved the extension to Nov. 30, with fees costing $37,400.
The court heard from Emergency Management Director Wade Boggs informed the court that a replacement generator for a radio tower was coming in that day (Sept. 15). The original generator had been struck by lightning.
At Neal’s request, the court also heard from Kentucky State Police Land Mobile Radio Programs Manager Brandon Marshall on the differences between P25 and DMR radio languages. P25 is the standard used on the state and federal level, which, Neal noted, is what Marshal County is working towards. He pointed out that Calloway County uses DMR.