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For years, this radio tower in west Athens has been a hub for law enforcement transmissions. When construction is complete, Henderson County will have five in operation, giving full coverage throughout the county.

Henderson County is writing a big check up front to save money in the long run on radio towers as it replaces its 40 year old communications system with one that meets all of the federal requirements for interoperability.

Commissioners court agreed to a contract with L3 Harris Technologies, Tuesday, to spend an additional $1.8 million on top of the original $4.5 for the additional construction and improvements.

“We ended up moving from rental locations to owning our own towers,” County Judge Wade McKinney said. “We went into an agreement with the Forestry Service on a location to erect a tower at no cost to us. We were also looking at property in the LaRue area.”

By building its own towers, the county will spend less money over the next 14 years than if it leased space on existing towers. Under the new plan, the county will go from four towers to five, further improving its radio coverage. The fifth tower will be located in the Cross Roads area.

McKinney said the long life span of the present system indicates that the county will see a big benefit from owning its own towers once the new equipment is paid for. The additional $1,843,188.73 will be paid by early 2022.

“This is a project that has come together a lot better than a lot of us thought it would in the beginning,” Precinct 3 Commissioner Chuck McHam said. “I think we should commend the county for being able to do that without putting more pressure on the taxpayer.”

The new Phase 2 P25 emergency communications system replaces the 40-year-old equipment that is spotty in many remote areas. Early estimates of the cost came in at about $8.2 million. By the time the county signed the contract with L3 Harris Technologies in June 2019, the price was down to the $4.5 million price tag.

According to The Federal Emergency Management Agency, interoperability refers to the ability of equipment used by one entity to function in conjunction with the equipment of others. In the event of an emergency, often many agencies will respond to the scene, often using radio equipment that is not compatible with others at the location.

Project 25 was developed by the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies to help solve that problem.

“We get bogged down in some of the details, but essentially it’s here to help save lives,” Henderson County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Kevin Halbert said.

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