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Government shutdown could delay new cell tower usage

Members of the SPLOST Fire Subcommittee, shown left to right, Josie Dean, Bill Campbell and Sam Smiley inspect the diesel generator at the county’s newly constructed public safety cell tower, located off Miller Bottom Road. With construction of a sister tower off Oglesby Bridge Road, first responders will have a communications network reaching the four corners of Rockdale County. Jay Nix, site construction manager, right, back to camera, discusses the generator with the subcommittee members. The tower construction is part of a $5 million radio system upgrade funded by revenue generated through Rockdale County’s 2011 special purpose local option sales yax, or SPLOST. (Special Photo: Jay Jones)

Members of the SPLOST Fire Subcommittee, shown left to right, Josie Dean, Bill Campbell and Sam Smiley inspect the diesel generator at the county’s newly constructed public safety cell tower, located off Miller Bottom Road. With construction of a sister tower off Oglesby Bridge Road, first responders will have a communications network reaching the four corners of Rockdale County. Jay Nix, site construction manager, right, back to camera, discusses the generator with the subcommittee members. The tower construction is part of a $5 million radio system upgrade funded by revenue generated through Rockdale County’s 2011 special purpose local option sales yax, or SPLOST. (Special Photo: Jay Jones)

CONYERS — Rockdale County officials are concerned that the shutdown of the federal government could postpone the date that new cell towers for 911 and public safety communications become operational.

Officials expect to hold a grand opening in mid-November for two new radio towers to come online for fire, law enforcement and 911 communications. The 300-foot communications tower located off Miller Bottom Road is complete. Construction of a second tower off Oglesby Bridge Road, near the Yellow River, will begin this week. Both towers are part of a $5 million radio system upgrade funded through the 2011 special purpose local option sales tax program, or SPLOST.

Bill Cates, Rockdale County Emergency/911 Communications director, told the SPLOST subcommittee overseeing the projects that he expects everything to be ready by Oct. 25 followed by drive tests of the new system. If everything checks out, the radio system will go live sometime in November.

However, Cates said the federal shutdown is affecting radio licensing required by the Federal Communications Commission for the Oglesby Bridge Road tower, and that could delay the project.

“We’re still waiting for some acknowledgement from the FCC on the South River site. That usually takes 90 days, and we’re well into that,” Cates said during the subcommittee’s meeting Thursday. “I don’t know if we’re now on hold, that once we’re back in business does the time clock pick up again, or is it still ticking now.”

Cates added, “I would think we would be put on hold because the reason for the 90 days is the glut of things in front of us.”

Cates said he hopes to know more when he speaks to FCC officials in the coming days.

Once completed, Rockdale’s pubic safety communications net will provide coverage to the entire county and fill in areas of the county where radio connections were difficult or non-existent.

The two new towers will join the county’s existing towers on Smyrna Road and the Emergency 911 Communications Center on Farmer Road.

“In the past, we’ve had just a straight line coverage for radio coming from the west side of the county with Farmer Road and South Tower. With these new towers as part of the overall system upgrade we will now have radio coverage in a rectangle configuration to connect four corners of the county,” said Rockdale County Fire Chief Dan Morgan.

The total amount earmarked for fire in the SPLOST program is $10 million and includes replacement of four fire apparatus and replacement of the Old Salem Road and Troupe Smith Road fire stations. Morgan explained a new station will be built at the Old Salem Road site, known as Fire Station 2, while a new location is planned for the Troupe Smith Road site, known as Fire Station 3.