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Council approves funding to upgrade battery backup at emergency towers

March 20, 2019
Following an emergency declaration by the board of commissioners that afternoon, the Crawford County Council, during its regular meeting last Tuesday evening at the judicial complex in English, appropriated $20,000 to purchase batteries for the county's seven communication towers.

The commissioners, at their regular meeting that afternoon (they recently began meeting on the second Tuesday of the month at 3:30 in addition to their normal meeting on the fourth Thursday at 7 p.m.), voted 3-0 to order temporary and permanent batteries, contingent on funding approval by the council.

Morton Dale, president of the board of commissioners, said the county has towers with bad batteries, including no back-up power. He said Indiana DC Power & Electric LLC, located south of Marengo, will get the battery systems up to par.

He said the expected total cost will be $16,770, "but the emergency need for today, out of that $16,770, was $4,875.69 to replace the batteries that are absolutely non-functional right now."

Don Burnham, the county's interim Emergency Management Agency director, said the county has seven towers, adding some have grounding issues.

"Keep in mind these are not car batteries. That's what we've got in there now. That's the problem," he said.

Indiana DC Power & Electric vice president Taryn Reynolds, who was joined by company owner and CEO Todd Ash, said the permanent units that will be installed will be telecommunications batteries.

"The difference is, right now you guys are using flooded batteries, and that's what's causing the corrosion as the hydrogen escapes it," she said.

The new batteries will include a manufacturer's warranty of a full four years followed by a prorated two years, Reynolds said.

Four of the towers — at Milltown, Leavenworth and Crawford County High School and along Indiana Avenue in English — are what she referred to as emergency sites and will need temporary batteries installed immediately, she said.

"The grounding's just not acceptable. Two of the batteries are obsolete. They're gone," Reynolds said of the Milltown tower, adding the "surge protection needs to be covered, redone in some of these sites."

"So, those are going to be the critical sites that we're going to address with this $4,875," she said.

Reynolds said it is important to outfit the critical sites with temporary batteries while the permanent batteries are being ordered (she anticipated them being delivered in about five weeks) to ensure that the severe weather sirens on the towers operate in case of an electrical power failure.

Without proper battery backup, she said, "if you live in of these areas and your power goes out, you're not going to get a warning. Your family, your kids, your grandchildren, your parents, they are not going to have an emergency warning."

The 16 temporary batteries — four at each site — are basic car batteries and cost $97.50 each, while the 38 permanent telecommunications batteries that will be needed cost $415 apiece, Reynolds said.

District 4 Councilman Chad Riddle asked what would happen to the temporary batteries, noting that it would not make sense to dispose of them when replaced with the permanent batteries.

Reynolds said Indiana DC Power & Electric can sign the batteries over to the county, which can use them in highway department or other vehicles, but, if the county doesn't want them, then the company must take them to a smelter to be properly destroyed.

Both Dale and District 1 Commissioner Daniel Crecelius assured Riddle that the county would have many uses for the batteries.

Following a motion by at-large member Sharon Wilson that was seconded by District 1 Councilman Lucas Stroud, the council voted 6-0-1 (District 3 Councilman Dale Roll abstained) to appropriate $20,000 in the county's Tower Fund to the Repair and Maintenance line item.

In a related matter, William Breeding, the council's president, suggested the board consider moving the revenue the county receives from renting space on the towers back to the Tower Fund.

Auditor Christian Howell explained the council a few years ago instructed that revenue, which had gone to the Tower Fund, be deposited in the General Fund. She said the towers generate about $30,000 in revenue.

"The only thing is, that revenue is factored into the County General's budget," she said.

Stroud suggested leaving things as they are.

"Bill, why can't we just appropriate that (out of the General Fund) when needed?" he asked

"We can, if you want to," Breeding answered.

Breeding said the commissioners are in the process of soliciting three bids for a service contract on the towers that would provide a quarterly inspection, but said the council can appropriate money from the General Fund to pay the contract as needed.

Dale said the contract is much needed.

"If we don't have a maintenance contract on those, then we'll just end up in the same shape we're in right now," he said.

Ash, whose Indiana DC Power & Electric is one of the bidders, said the county currently is only testing the commercial power at the towers.

"Right now, you guys are running tests every Saturday at noon on commercial power," he said. "You set your sirens off. That proves that they work for you on commercial power. We need to set up a back-up test to where we can shut commercial power off, put it on the back-up system, let it run for three minutes," take readings on the batteries, then turn the tower back over to commercial power, which will recharge the batteries.

In another matter, the council voted 7-0 to approve Prosecutor Cheryl Hillenburg's request to pay Trey Parker Hudson, whom she hired as a paralegal in her office, the $35,000 budgeted for a paralegal investigator.

Hillenburg, who took office Jan. 1, said she was told, to be eligible for the $35,000 salary, the employee either must be a certified paralegal or have completed training at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy.

Hudson, a Crawford County High School graduate, is a licensed attorney in Kentucky and recently took the bar exam to be able to practice law in Indiana. The council agreed that he should be paid the $35,000, as a licensed attorney is a higher level of certification than a paralegal.

The council's next regular meeting will be Tuesday, April 9, at 6 p.m. at the judicial complex.

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