Ron Wells

Ron Wells of Mobile Communications of America offers an overview of the new E-911 system to supervisors at their October meeting on Monday.

Emergency responders soon will have a new and improved emergency communications network at their disposal, after Halifax County Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution at Monday’s meeting allowing procurement, purchase and financing of the $2.9 million system.

ED-5 supervisor Joseph Rogers was absent from the meeting that took place at the Mary Bethune Office Complex in Halifax.

The overall cost of the system is $2,945,910, less than the budgeted $3 million cost, with “more bang for the buck,” according to Ron Wells of Mobile Communications of America.

Wells told supervisors the E-911 board tasked with developing a new emergency communications network did its job in securing one that minimized channel congestion and one with radios having multiple talk paths.

The communications center will have five operator positions, with full supervisory control of the radio system, a logging recorder and training.

It also includes 289 mobile radios, 484 portable radios, 281 HAZLOC approved radios for fire service with 31 spare batteries; 203 non-HAZLOC radios with 33 spare batteries; nine vehicular chargers and nine multi-unit chargers; and 36 base station radios.

The system infrastructure includes six sites, with four repeaters per site and five years of software updates, infrastructure repair and premium software, antenna systems for each site, associated combining systems for each site and associated hardware components.

The licensing process with FCC is almost complete, and implementation of the new system will follow, according to Wells, who added the plan also includes a five-year maintenance agreement.

County staff has identified and budgeted for a 10-year financing plan for the project, and the annual project financing expense is currently accounted for in the 911 department budget, according to Scott Simpson, county administrator.

During the search for a new E911 system, supervisors utilized a cooperative procurement “piggyback” clause in the Mecklenburg County contract to allow for procurement of the Halifax County System, Simpson said.

He told supervisors the best interest rate staff has received thus far is 2.3% for 10 years, which translates to from $320,000 to $330,000 a year in payments, which is accounted for in the E-911 budget.

The first payment is not due until November 2020, Simpson said.

Wells noted due diligence in regards to testing the system has been done, responding to a query from ED-7 supervisor Garland Ricketts.

Public hearings draw no comment

Two public hearings produced no citizen comments at Monday’s meeting, with supervisors unanimously adopting an MBC tax exemption ordinance following the first public hearing.

Representatives from Mid-Atlantic Broadband had requested exemption of real estate and personal property tax related to the announced SOVA Innovation Hub in South Boston, with MBC committing $5 million to the facility.

The ordinance adopted by supervisors on Monday expires in 10 years.

Supervisors also unanimously approved a VDOT conveyance for a turning radius improvement at the Halifax County War Memorial, following the second public hearing.

The board, at its August meeting, agreed to donate right-of-way and easements to VDOT for intersection improvements at the Mountain Road-Main Street intersection, with the consent of the War Memorial Committee.

A third public hearing scheduled for Monday, on an application from Tower North Development for the installation of a cellular tower was postponed on the advice of the county attorney and the concurrence of ED-4 supervisor and board chairman Dennis Witt.

The Halifax County Planning Commission earlier had held a public hearing on the issue but tabled a decision for 60 days in order to gather more information on the time lines of construction of previously approved towers in the area.

Doug Ford reports for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him at dford@gazettevirginian.com.

Doug Ford covers news and sports for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him at dford@gazettevirginian.com.