By Stephen Smoot
Emergency services issues dominated discussion at last week’s county commission meeting. First, commissioners invited Franklin Volunteer Fire Department representatives Kelly Hartman, Doug Hartman, and Eddie Caplinger to provide an update on the ongoing generator issues at the community building in Franklin.
Commissioners and fire department representatives discussed multiple solutions at length, including use of a small generator to back up emergency services functions and a larger one for the entire building.
Rick Gillespie, emergency services coordinator for Pendleton County, advised that a two generator system would run into structural constraints, requiring “planning to the nth degree,” and advised that “we need to look at the big picture.” Furthermore, grant funding to purchase any generators for the structure could be held up by the building’s location in a flood plain.
Gillespie also suggested that care be taken in the selection of an automatic transfer switch that would put the building on the generator in event of a failure. Fire department representatives agreed, saying that the switch should “break the load up into phases.” A managed switch from the grid to the generator prevents too much load placed on the generator all at once, particularly in summertime when the air conditioner may be in use.
Commissioners agreed that the county commission would, upon receiving an estimate, donate the needed funds to the fire department so that they could procure a system that meets the needs for both emergency services and the community building as a whole.
Gillespie stated later that, “I am appreciative of the support shown by the county commission. Having the whole-building solution is what we in emergency services have been working toward. These things take time and funding. This allows all aspects of emergency services to perform their functions during an emergency that takes down the power grid and it supports use of the community building facilities, including a full kitchen to host a shelter.”
Commissioners also listened to an update on the possibility of a new tower in the northern end of the county. Gillespie advised, “we are considering construction of a tower in the general Seneca Rocks area. The purpose would be two-fold. It would allow us to enhance 911 communications to first responders and it would be a platform to host one or more cellular/broadband providers.”
Gillespie laid out the process needed to get the tower constructed. He said, “We have many obstacles to overcome prior to this becoming reality. First, the National Radio Quiet Zone must provide us with output limits that will allow 911 and cellular providers to emit reasonable levels of signal. That aspect is being worked with the representatives of the NRQZ.”
He added, “Next, we must identify funding. It is likely that we will apply for a tower grant to fund the majority of the project. Additionally, the potential tower site must pass all engineering, geologic and other requirements. Lastly, we need commitments from one or more cellular providers, indicating that they will utilize the tower. Currently, I have interest being expressed by two cellular companies.”
On a related issue, Laura Brown, Pendleton County Economic and Community Development Authority director, discussed with the county commission establishment of term limits for the county broadband council. Terms will be staggered for business community representatives serving two-year terms. Members at large will serve for a single year.
Brown also advised the county commission that Melinda Brook from Experience Learning shall serve as the Town of Franklin’s representative on the convention and visitors bureau board of directors.