Presiding County Commissioner John Griesheimer

Presiding County Commissioner John Griesheimer expressed skepticism over the need to buy a new $150,000 communication tower, but the project is moving forward for now.

Griesheimer on Tuesday specifically asked the county’s 911 Director Vince Zagarri if there is anything wrong with the tower that is in place now.

Zagarri said, “It really is in line for an upgrade.”

The tower, which is at the sheriff’s office, is “sufficient,” but it would still be nice to have a new one, Zagarri said.

“It’s not by any means throwing away any money,” Zagarri said. “I would sleep better at night knowing this thing was a brand new 300-foot, three-legged tower.”

He said he is as “frugal as they come . . . You spend it like it’s your own.”

The next step is to seek proposals from companies to do the project, Zagarri said, adding, “We’ll want to get this done this year.”

Project Needed?

Griesheimer said he had “reservations” about the project and questioned how badly it is needed.

“If we really, really, really need it, then I won’t have a problem with it,” Griesheimer said.

He asked Zagarri if the tower in place now has “issues.”

Zagarri responded, “I think we’ve got all our eggs in one basket with this guy, and it’s a 20-year-old tower, and it does not meet the current spec.”

Zagarri later said he does not “think” it would meet the new spec “as far as a structural analysis would go.”

The word “spec” refers to building codes, said First District County Commissioner Tim Brinker, who also attended the meeting about the proposed new tower Tuesday.

Brinker asked Zagarri what the county gains by replacing the tower.

Zagarri noted that it all goes back to the stability of the tower structure. With workers climbing on the tower, Zagarri said he would like to have a more structurally sound tower.

“If we get good, hard 120-mile per hour winds through here, and it blows that tower out, we’re going to have to immediately go out and fix it and replace it,” Zagarri said.

Instead of dealing with the possible scenario, Zagarri suggested that a “nice, robust” tower could be put in place that could handle a half to three-quarters of an inch of ice.

Multiple agencies use the tower, which makes it a “single point of failure,” Zagarri said, adding that the tower is at the “core of the network.”

Moreover, Zagarri said the county is operating on a new “telecom spec” that has higher requirements for wind and ice.

“Therefore, a lot of our older towers are really not sufficient for these new specs,” Zagarri said.

The county put in place a new spec in 2009 and should abide by its own regulations, said Zagarri.

Brinker said he has no “heartburn” moving forward with the project, saying it is an investment in emergency services. Once it is replaced it will be set for another couple of decades, he said.

Brinker noted that the project was proposed last year, and the county did not do it. The project is not going to impact the budget’s fund balance, he added.

Zagarri said he wants to do everything he can to make the county’s network as “robust as possible,” including adding generators, battery backups and circuit replication.

“That’s my job,” said Zagarri, whom the county contracts with for technical support at an amount not to exceed $82,080 a year.

County Asset?

The estimated $150,000 cost of the tower is a “good price,” Zagarri said, adding that the project can be funded because other projects have been canceled.

It would be a huge asset that could be sold in the future for around $1 million, Zagarri added.

“Not that you’re going to do that, but that’s a possibility,” he said. “These towers are extremely valuable because of all the wireless communication going on.”

Brinker said the cost of the project would be covered by the countywide 911 fund, which gets its revenue from a 15 percent tax charged on landline telephones.