By Teresa Holloway
Houston County Judge Erin Ford and Trinity County Judge Doug Page are engaged in a collaborative effort to secure permanent emergency communication towers for the two counties.
In the Tuesday, July 28 Houston County Commissioner's Court meeting, Ford told the commissioners and the audience that he and Page have offered ETMC $300,000 for both the Trinity County and Houston County towers that are already in place.
"I mailed the offer letter out on the 21st, but I've not yet had a reply," Ford told the court.
Ford is also coordinating with DETCOG Executive Director Walter Diggles to determine if there is funding in place for the purchase of the two towers.
"If ETMC accepts the $300,000 offer for both towers, but DETCOG doesn't have the funding, we will look for other means of payment," Ford said.
"Should ETMC reject the offer, there are other options. This is the most supportive one," according to Ford. "We would all benefit from purchasing and using the equipment already in place."
Among the other options are building a new tower and installing the necessary equipment, which would cost the county a minimum of $150,000.
The real issue with a new construction is going to be the time it takes to complete and then become functional, according to Ford.
A low interest loan also is an option, though "not necessarily from ETMC", Precinct 2 Commissioner Willie Kitchen said, referencing ETMC's prior offer to finance $40,000 per year for 10 years for the purchase.
Research and consideration are also being conducted on the feasibility of stripping the current equipment from the towers and leasing space on a different tower, Ford explained.
"This is also time consuming and costly," he continued.
ETMC originally offered the towers to Houston and Trinity Counties for $400,000 each.
Houston County emergency communication equipment and procedures are still in place, but ETMC refused to lease space on the tower to Lifeguard Ambulance Service.
Houston County contracted with Lifeguard after ETMC EMS gave Houston County and Trinity County 90 days notice that ETMC EMS would no longer operate in the two counties.
The land where ETMC constructed the towers was donated to them by the Crockett Economic and Industrial Development Corporation, and most of the tower and equipment costs were defrayed by a grant, Ford said.