FARMINGTON — Franklin County commissioners voted Monday to spend $20,000 from the undesignated fund to improve communications and pave a gravel parking lot and walkway at the Regional Communications Center.

Communications center Director Stan Wheeler told commissioners that the gravel portion of the lot beside the dispatch center where the dispatchers park needs to be paved, and a walkway that leads to the door needs to be paved as well.

The cost is estimated at $5,000.

The backup heating and air conditioning unit and the backup generator need to be kept clear of snow, he said. During the past winter, the area was plowed and the units were buried, so the snow had to be removed by hand.

The gravel areas have been disrupted because of the snow plowing, he said.

Wheeler also told commissioners that the biggest complaint he hears when he is meeting is radio communication. The topography of the county makes it difficult for some areas to hear radio transmissions, he said.


It is a public safety and officer safety concern, he said.

He convened a meeting of an ad hoc committee consisting of Sheriff Scott Nichols Sr., Emergency Management Agency Director Tim Hardy, Farmington fire Chief Terry Bell, Farmington fire Deputy Chief Clyde Ross and himself to try to develop a short-term plan to improve the communication, he said.

The project would cost between $25,000 to $26,000 and mainly consists of site improvements to the Mosher Communications Tower on Mosher Hill Road in Farmington, Wheeler said.

Of that money, $15,000 would come from the county’s undesignated fund, $5,000 would come from the Sheriff’s Department operations budget and $6,000 from grant funds the EMA has, he said.

A Communications Committee that has not gotten together in a couple of years will be reconvened to try and develop a long-term plan.

The communications center has 12 base radios of which six are older, he said. He plans to actively pursue money from the county’s tax-increment financing program to get new radios and any other grants available to improve communications in the county, including the unorganized territory.


Commission Chairman Fred Hardy of New Sharon said he was a little bit disappointed about the need to come up with more money for the communications center.

This is the first year that the communication’s department is a stand-alone entity and has its own building, Wheeler said. He is also in his first year as director.

The dispatch center used to be operated out of the Sheriff’s Department building until the new center was built. Dispatchers moved into it earlier this year.

The old base radios were moved into the new center, Wheeler said. The county hasn’t upgraded radios in 10 to 15 years, he said.

Commissioner Gary McGrane of Jay said he was disappointed that funding was not added to the budget for it. The county just went through the budget process in June, where a $5.6 million overall budget was approved for county operations.

Though the 911 equipment and the dispatchers’ work stations are new, the base radios are not, Wheeler said.


The radios were not part of the nearly $600,000 bond package, county Clerk Julie Magoon said.

Commissioner Clyde Barker of Strong said that commissioners have known that more money would be needed to improve communications at the center.

Tim Hardy said he is hoping that once the new communications tower goes online on Mt. Blue that will also help improve radio communications. They are also working on siting another tower in northern Franklin County.

Wheeler also told commissioners that the union has approved the new contract for dispatchers.

Magoon said when a copy is submitted to commissioners, they will address it.

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