Pulaski County Council Wants More Information Before Moving Ahead with Funding for Radio Tower

The Pulaski County Council has decided to hold off on funding arrangements for a radio tower, amid concerns that it was purchased without the proper permission and that it may not actually be needed. When the Emergency Management Agency’s move to the West Annex was being planned last year, former maintenance director Jeff Johnston said moving the necessary radio equipment would cost about $10,000.

At the time, he suggested to the county commissioners that the money be taken out of the county’s DRMO Fund. It contains funds raised through the sale of military surplus vehicles and is primarily used to maintain the county’s fleet. In September, the commissioners voted to amend the DRMO ordinance, to let the money be used for the radio equipment.

However, that money was never actually budgeted, apparently, and an additional appropriation request came before the county council this month after the bill arrived. Sheriff Jeff Richwine told council members that, traditionally, both he and the EMA director have had to approve any spending out of the DRMO Fund, and he never agreed to this expense because he wasn’t sure that a new tower was needed.

“That didn’t strike me as something that was right,” Richwine explained, “so I talked to a guy I know at the EMA at the state level, and I said, ‘Do we have to do radio checks with you on a separate frequency from our 800 megahertz that we’ve spent millions of dollars to have in this county?’ And he said, ‘No, counties all the time call us on their 800 megahertz and do a monthly radio check.'”

Council Member Ken Boswell felt that in order to spend money wisely, they need to know if something’s truly needed. “My question is, if we’re not even sure, at this point, that we need the tower, if we’re not sure that we even followed the correct process to purchase the tower, can we pack the tower back up and just send it back?”

In the end, council members decided not to move ahead with the additional appropriation request for more than $10,000, until they could get more information.

They did, however, agree to advertise a request for more than $1,400 in DRMO funding for repairs to a five-ton former military truck. Sheriff Richwine said the repairs were to make sure it’s ready for potential snow emergencies. He added that EMA Director Sheri Gaillard had given him her permission to use that money.