For 10 years, the emergency communications system in St. Mary’s County has offered spotty coverage for first responders. There are certain areas where mobile and portable radios won’t work — usually by the water’s edge, but also in other parts of the county.
New radio towers are being added to fill in those gaps, as part of a complete overhaul to the next generation of technology in emergency communications. One of them will soon be erected in Valley Lee. In cooperation with the state, a new tower was earlier went up in Bushwood.
Those two towers are being added to the existing four in Leonardtown, Mechanicsville, California and Dameron. In cooperation with the state, a new tower went up in Bushwood and the other one is pending for Valley Lee.
It’s going to cost $110,000 more than planned for the Valley Lee tower, the county commissioners were told Tuesday, for a total of $860,000.
It was estimated to cost $750,000 for the new tower at the county’s trash and recycling convenience center in Valley Lee, said Bob Kelly, director of emergency services and technology. The bids, put out by the state, came in higher than expected and Kelly requested $110,000 from contingency funds for the tower. The commissioners approved the move.
“I suspect construction will start very quickly,” Kelly said.
The cost increases stem from new state regulations for stormwater management and building a 1,000-foot gravel road to the tower from the trash convenience station, Kelly said.
Commissioner Dan Morris (R) wanted to know how close the tower would be to Leah’s House, a women’s shelter on Happyland Road in Valley Lee. Commissioner Cindy Jones (R), who lives nearby, said it was about a mile away.
The Valley Lee tower will be 330 feet tall.
The commissioners have entered into a $34 million contract with Harris Corp. to build and maintain the new emergency communications system during the next 15 years.
A batch of 1,900 new radios have already been purchased. The second phase of work includes four more new towers, followed by three more in the third phase for a total of 13 towers.
The new radio system needs to be implemented by January 2014 when support services for the current system expire.