Tower deal boosts safety

A new technological agreement between four county groups will serve to increase safety for Bartholomew County residents while also cutting the cost of county-wide safety measures.

Under a new interlocal cooperation agreement, the city of Columbus, Bartholomew County, Columbus Regional Hospital and Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. will share a radio tower that provides a signal for each of the agencies’ radio systems.

Columbus Police Department leases the tower, and the four groups were already sharing, said Columbus Police Chief Jon Rohde.

The new agreement makes the partnerships official and creates a financial obligation plan for each of the four entities to support upgrades to the tower, Rohde said.

“The first reason (to share the tower) is so we can all communicate with each other in case of a disaster, and number two is to share the costs associated with the tower, rather than having separate towers,” Rohde said.

In 2016, the city, county, hospital and school district will each pay $95,535.56 to share the 800 megahertz tower. After that, the subsequent payments will be $8,200.80 annually through 2021.

The funds will be used in the immediate future to modernize outdated radio equipment and to purchase a back-up tower in case of a disaster, Rohde said.

The shared radio system proved to be an indispensable outlet in 2008, when Bartholomew Consolidated first began sharing the tower with CPD, said Larry Perkinson, the school district’s student assistance coordinator.

Radios were installed on the buses just one week before the flood of 2008 hit Columbus, which enabled district buses to assist in the flood recovery efforts, Perkinson said.

“It was pretty miraculous timing because we did so much of the evacuation of that time period,” he said.

Although the four agencies will share the tower, each one will have its own radio frequencies to communicate internally.

The partnership became official on Nov. 9, when the Bartholomew Consolidated School Board became the last group to approve the agreement at its November meeting.

About the new system

Who: The city of Columbus, Bartholomew County, Columbus Regional Hospital and Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.

What: An interlocal cooperation agreement between the four groups to share an 800 megahertz radio tower

When: The contract is valid through Dec. 31, 2021

How much: Each of the groups will pay $95,535.56 in 2016, then $8,200.80 each subsequent year through 2021

Author photo
Olivia Covington is a reporter for The Republic. She can be reached at ocovington@therepublic.com or 812-379-5712.