Grant for communications gear moves forward

PARKERSBURG Wood County commissioners moved a grant application forward, which, if funded, would help purchase additional equipment so the sheriff’s department can improve communications with other emergency agencies.

Wood County sheriff’s Capt. Rick Woodyard said the $674,650 federal grant, if approved, would be used to purchase equipment to help the sheriff’s department improve communications through the West Virginia Statewide Interoperable Radio Network. The network is a collaborative effort by state, county and municipal public safety entities to establish and maintain a statewide interoperable radio network for emergency services.

Woodyard said during Transportation Security Administration exercises in the area, officials noted communication breaks in some areas along the river.

“We need to expand on two more towers. Our proposal, if granted, would improve the communications along the river, there would be a link from Pittsburgh to Huntington to Paducah, Ky.,” Woodyard said.

Sheriff’s department officials said the grant does require a $224,883 match, but it can be in-kind and that is what the department is planning to request.

“We will be asking to be allowed to use existing infrastructure as the in-kind match. If we are told we cannot, we will walk away from the grant,” Woodyard said.

“This system can be linked into by emergency responders from the FBI, state police, Coast Guard, U.S. Marshal’s office, all state, federal and local agencies including other police agencies and fire departments,” Woodyard said.

“The state has agreed to take over and maintain the system once it’s installed,” said T.R. Smith, sheriff’s department administrative assistant.

“So we wouldn’t have ongoing maintenance costs,” Commissioner Blair Couch said.

In other business, the commissioners also agreed to help with West Virginia Day celebration expenses, and turned thumbs down to funding for a music festival in Mineral Wells.

The commissioners agreed to give Carlin’s Battery Civil War reenactors $500 to help cover remaining expenses in a total $1,800 budget for West Virginia Day activities scheduled at Veteran’s Park. Jim Miracle, with Carlin’s Battery, said the unit has been able to raise the other $1,300 and would pay back the $500 through fundraising efforts.

The commissioners decided not to grant a request for advance of grant funds to Steve Parker, coordinator for the Gathering at Sweet Creek.

The Gathering is an old-time music festival held during the Labor Day weekend on Parker’s Sugar Camp Road property in Mineral Wells. Commissioners have provided funding to the festival in the past and have also fronted grant money for later reimbursement. The festival does not charge admission.

Parker said earlier the total budget for the festival is about $16,000. He asked the county to consider advancing the group $10,000 which would then be refunded from anticipated grant money. “This group seems to be well-financed through funding from the state, more than some others,” Couch said. “They can always come back if they don’t get the grant,” Commissioner Steve Gainer said.