ELIZABETHTOWN - The Essex Couty Board of Supervisors took the next steps in establishing operations for it's digital radio system, one of the county's largest capital projects currently underway.
Members of the board begrudgingly passed a resolution authorizing County Manager Daniel Palmer to provide Motorola with a letter stating the county's intent to purchase rights to a set of radio frequencies.
The four pairs of frequencies, which Motorola said are drawing interest from commercial entities, are necessary to get the new digital system up and running. However, together they would cost the county over $495,000, an expense that several supervisors feel could have been avoided.
"It's a horrible situation that we're in when we have to buy these frequencies," said Westport supervisor Dan Connell. "The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) went out and sold them, basically to speculators, and now it's costing the taxpayers of Essex County $495,000."
"We need to make our federal representatives aware of how we feel about this," said Jay supervisor Randy Douglas. "This is to provide emergency service protection for our residents, and (the idea that) we have to pay for the frequencies is ridiculous."
The letter of intent would not bind the county to make a purchase, but it is needed to prevent the frequencies from being bought up by private companies.
"If we lose these frequencies, we'll lose two years on the system or more," said Jackson, "but it's blatantly unfair that we have to spend this money. It's just money grabbed by Washington, selling these frequencies instead of protecting and serving the states and towns."
Meanwhile, both Douglas and Wilmington supervisor Randy Preston relayed reports of service on the current system failing for about two to three hours on the evening of Oct. 31, requiring volunteers to man relay stations.
Progress on the radio system drew a more positive light, however, when County Attorney Daniel Manning indicated that an agreement had finally been reached with the town of Long Lake.
Manning requested permission to enact a contract with the Hamilton County town to share the costs of a set of radio lines connecting it to Essex County's E911 service.
According to Manning, Long Lake has agreed to pay the installation charges for the two lines, amounting to just under $3,400. Also, they would pay a monthly operations fee of roughly $415 and an annual $3,000 administration fee, which they requested be waived for 2008.
"I think this contract written now is fair to everybody," said Manning. "It resolves the problem, and we can move forward."
Manning noted that there was still a dispute with Verizon over the cost to install the lines.
"Verizon gave us figures to put in the lines and it was a certain amount. Then, when we got the bill from Verizon, it was double plus mileage," he said.
Under the proposed contract, Long Lake would only be obligated to pay the amount in the original quote, Manning explained, so there was still a possibility the county would have to foot at least part of the bill.