Cumberland Times-News

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November 12, 2013

Application for new wireless tower fund grant moving forward

340-foot tower would improve coverage area in north end of Mineral County

KEYSER, W.Va. — During a Mineral County Commission meeting on Tuesday, commissioners approved the submission of an application to the West Virginia Public Service Commission for a wireless tower access assistance fund grant.

The grant will be used for a new tower that aims at improving wireless broadband service in the area as well as public safety, according to Bill Hentosh, director of the Mineral County Office of Emergency Management.  

A new 340-foot tower will cost almost $538,000 and will improve the coverage in the north end of the county. The county will be responsible for 20 percent of the costs (about $107,400) and the grant will cover the remainder, according to Hentosh. The grant won’t cover the $270,000 cost of IRP radios, repeaters, installation or antennas. Hentosh plans on asking the state for a cost share for the radios.

“We are looking at a $377,000 project, based on what I have developed so far,” said Hentosh. “It’s a major project but it’s an important project for the life and safety of our first responders.”

If the funding for the tower is approved by the PSC, it will take about 12 months to place a new tower on the Patterson Creek ridgeline, according to Hentosh.

A propagation study will be conducted to determine if a shorter, 200-foot tower would serve the county’s needs, according to Hentosh. Hentosh requested that Hampshire County do a propagation study. A 300-foot tower would reach into all areas of Mineral County as well as Hampshire and Morgan counties.

A letter of intent from a wireless carrier also needs to be submitted with the application for the grant and Hentosh hasn’t been able to obtain one yet.

“I’ve been reaching out to all different companies,” said Hentosh. “That is one of the pieces that is kind of hurting the moving forward of the submission (of the application). A letter of intent doesn’t fully commit them.”

Commissioner Jerry Whisner agreed to speak with Hardy Telecommunications of Moorefield and Shentel and have them contact Hentosh about letters of intent.

There are also issues with the computer-aided dispatch system, which is 4 years old. There are parts of the CAD system that need to be replaced, according to Hentosh. The CAD system will likely cost between $300,000 and $500,000.

“Every year our cost to operate 911 goes up but our revenue pretty much stays stagnant,” said County Coordinator Mike Bland. “The wireless fees are coming down slightly and our land line fees are coming down.”

The county is going to have to look into supplementing the communications project from the general fund, according to Bland.

In other council news, the commission indicated that it received letters of resignation from Mineral County Development Authority president Dave Boden as well as members Stephen Davis and Robert Cole.

“I know the people that sent their letters of resignation for the development authority were concerned that we weren’t considering broadband but that’s not the case,” said Whisner, who serves on the authority. “It’s just that we had to change from the $5 (million) to $7 million project down to something we could handle.”

The authority will be discussing a possible partnership with Hardy Telecommunications and Shentel during its Nov. 19 meeting, according to Whisner.

The commission is seeking letters of interest for the three vacancies on the authority at the Mineral County Courthouse or by mail to the Mineral County Commission, 150 Armstrong St., Keyser, WV 26726.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at eblaisdell@times-news.com.

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