Three Towers Aren’t Enough For County’s Public Safety System

The unconnected three-tower network in Greene County, Virginia is “ancient and ineffective,” according to an analysis by Black & Veatch, the Green County Record reported.  The aging two-way radio communication system has caused trouble for the Sheriff’s Office and Fire House Departments, the report stated, including poor coverage, dropped calls and deficient transmissions. The report also cited a lack of interoperability between the towers, old and discontinued infrastructure equipment, and channel congestion due to the shortage of sufficient equipment in the surrounding area.

On March 27, the Greene County Board of Supervisors came together to hear about the poor communication system. Melissa Meador, emergency services manager for the county, admitted that the need for better coverage is there, stating, “We have some issues, that’s no secret, and we’re going to have to have some type of major overhaul in the next couple of years for our public safety communications.” However, the board is now facing what could be a multi-million-dollar investment that will only last until about 2040, an estimate made by Don Bowman, the Public Safety Consulting Manager at Black & Veatch.  

After an investigation on the communication system in Greene County, Black & Veatch researchers noticed that the three towers in the county, located at the courthouse in Ruckersville and on Flat Top Mountain, do not connect to one another. Bowman told the Greene County Record, his goal in the coverage overhaul is to, “have 95 percent of the county covered 95 percent of the time.”  

To fix these issues, the report lists three different million-dollar alternatives for the coverage renovations. The first possibility is a standalone option for the region, which would cost the county an estimated $6.2 million dollars. Board of Supervisors Chairman Michelle Flynn advised against this option in the meeting, stating to the agency, “I can’t imagine why any locality would enter into a standalone system at this point in time. All of our disaster responses, all our mitigation exercises are regional.”

The second option would be joining forces with the adjacent Madison County, to invest in a joint tower system, which would cost about $5.6 million dollars for Greene County. Bowman believes this option would be the best in terms of cost and coverage. David Gelyana, Black and Veatch’s Senior Engineer, stated, “your coverage is significantly better when you’re using six towers instead of three. Both counties would benefit from that.” County Administrator John Barkley said that Madison County is interested in talking more about a joint system with Greene County.

The last option Bowman and his team came up with, is a regional system with Greene, Madison, Louisa, and Fluvanna Counties, which would cost Greene County about $5.3 million dollars.

Flynn advised the Greene County Board members to read the full report by the Black and Veatch agency and to add it into the agenda docket for further inquiries.

April 9, 2018           

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