Delaware County: 911 tower upgrades depend on levy's outcome

Paul Comstock
ThisWeek

All law-enforcement, emergency-medical and firefighting personnel in Delaware County depend on 12 radio towers to keep emergency communications operating.

Renovating the towers and their accompanying buildings is one of the costs that would be covered by the 911 renewal levy on the Nov. 3 ballot, said county emergency-communications director Patrick Brandt.

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Brandt said the county's towers were built in 2003, and the radio equipment is housed in lightweight shelters that are showing their age.

The goal is to construct more solid buildings that can go many years without maintenance, he said.

"We want to get heavier-duty buildings we don't have to replace," he said.

Franklin County recently faced a similar challenge with a radio-tower facility that was 19 years old and had significant maintenance needs, Brandt said. It was replaced with a more solid structure costing about $280,000. 

Communication between the towers is linked by a microwave system, Brandt said, and another goal is to replace that with a more reliable fiber-optic network. 

Delaware County's towers are vital to ensuring public safety, he said.

Each has backup batteries and a power generator to keep it working during a power outage, he said. 

The five-year levy, if voters approve, would renew the expiring 0.63-mill levy and add 0.05 mill, for a total of 0.68 mill.

The current levy was approved in November 2016 as a renewal and increase from 0.45 mill to 0.63 mill. It's collecting at a total effective rate of 0.55 mill, according to the Delaware County Auditor's Office.

Homeowners pay $17.63 annually per $100,000 of property value toward the current levy, which will expire at the end of 2021, according to the county. The levy's renewal would increase that by $1.75, for a $19.38 annual total.

Collection of the tax would begin in 2022. The levy would generate $4.5 million per year, according to the auditor's office.

When the county commissioners authorized the levy Aug. 3, Sheriff Russ Martin said that as a taxpayer, he knows the best return on investment is local tax dollars, which is not always the view of spending at the state level.

"Being privileged to serve on the 911 board, I have seen firsthand the quality of services provided by our 911 center," commissioner Gary Merrell said. "The board is made up of representatives from law enforcement, fire departments, cities and emergency services. Their expertise also is important in providing the quality of services we all expect and appreciate.”

In 2019, the county 911 center processed 40,794 calls in addition to 65,956 nonemergency administrative calls. A total of 3,151 alarm calls were handled electronically, and 58 texts were received, said Jane Hawes, the county’s communications director.

For more information, go to emergencycomms.co.delaware.oh.us.

Although Election Day is Nov. 3, oversees and military absentee voting began Sept. 18 and early in-person and mail-in absentee voting began Oct. 6, according to the Ohio Secretary of State's Office voting schedule.

Also after the voter registration deadline, the board of elections will begin 24 days of in-person "vote center" balloting at the elections board's offices.

Weekday hours for the vote center are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 12-16. Weekday hours will expand to 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 19-23 and will expand further to 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 26-30. Hours will be 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 2.

The vote center also will be open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24 and 31, and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25 and Nov. 1.

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