SPARTA, Wis. (WXOW) – Last month, the Monroe County Board approved a $28 million bid for a new Justice Center—but another major project needs an update.
Monroe County needs more radio towers to improve communication with dispatchers during emergency situations.
The County wants to add eight towers, which could cost $3.8 million—and it’s a serious need for emergency responders.
“I hold my breath everyday when I listen to our officers and our emergency responders and our dispatchers struggle to communicate. I keep thinking ‘is this the day, is this the day something is going to go wrong’,” Monroe County Sheriff Pete Quirin said.
Full radio towers have necessary equipment, such as antennas, receivers, and simulcasts for reliable and immediate communication. Counties surrounding Sparta have between six and ten full towers—Monroe County only has one, which has affected one local police officer in the past.
“He was jumped by somebody who had escaped from a squad car. The guy still had bracelets of his handcuffs on and he was beating the officer over the head. The officer was bloodied, he couldn’t even see. He had a radio in his hand, he was calling for help, but nobody could hear it,” Quirin said.
On Thursday, the County’s Finance Committee proposed a plan on how to pay for adding necessary equipment to pay for area radio towers.
“A financial plan that’ll run the course for the next three years to help pay for the radio system which the county needs,” Monroe County 911 Communications Center Administrator Randy Williams said.
The group proposes paying the $3.8 million with a combination of excess funds from previous year’s budgets and a tax levy. Due to the recent approval of the Justice Center project, the costs could continue to pile up within the County.
“Not having enough reserve funds incase something major happens is a concern,” Williams said.
Williams said they are hoping to sign lease agreement for eight additional towers within the county, which is much cheaper than building brand new ones.
If the County Board rejects the project, Williams and Quirin said it could result in another couple years of lost time, and rising concerns within the Sheriff’s Department.
Besides the tower project, the County Board needs to approve the Justice Center project before construction can begin.
The current finance plan for the radio tower project is expected to be presented to the Monroe County Board on May 28th. The plan must be approved by a 2/3 vote.
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