Bell County first responders could soon be receiving an update in how they respond to emergency calls.
During a Bell County Fiscal Court meeting this spring, Sheriff Mitch Williams addressed the court regarding needs of the sheriffs office. One of these needs was to fund an updated radio communications system and network to be used by the sheriff’s department and first responders.
Williams, Emergency Management Director Ben Barnett, Adventure Tourism Director Jon Grace and Fiscal Court Judge Albey Brock worked together to apply for a grant from the Kentucky Department of Homeland Security.
“We decided that the best option to dramatically improve our radio coverage area for first responders would be to add a new radio tower in the northern section of Bell County, then link this tower with two other towers via microwave links, subsequently creating a network of towers,” said Grace.
Currently an antiquated tower stands on top of Pine Mountain and provides service for first responders. The grant would provide funding for a new tower, which would connect to an additional tower on Log Mountain and a tower currently under construction in Middlesboro.
“This communication system enhancement project will allow us to better serve the taxpayer. We have been very aggressive over the years in applying for grants, in order to save the local taxpayer dollars whenever possible,” said Brock.
Grace mentioned that dispatchers have virtually no coverage in the areas of Arjay, Frakes, Beans Fork, Polly Hollow, Brownies Creek and other communities along U.S. 119 and KY 92. He added that first responders sometimes use their cell phone for communication with dispatch.
“The men and women who put their own safety at risk deserve to have every benefit we can provide them to ensure they can respond to emergency situations in a safe and timely manner. This grant is vitally important from a safety perspective, so we are keeping our fingers crossed that we can obtain the funding necessary,” said Grace.
The linking of the new towers would more than double the current radio coverage, resulting in a more efficient, streamlined and reliable means of communication for the sheriff’s office and first responders.
Reach Kelsey Gerhardt at 606-302-9093 or on Twitter @kgerhardtmbdn.