How safe is the radio antenna tower on top of the Putnam County Courthouse?
A recent visual inspection by Tower Services determined the tower looks in good condition, but it is overloaded with antennas. And that could be a problem if a severe weather event strikes downtown Greencastle.
David Costin, director of Putnam County's 911 Dispatch Center, took his concerns to the Putnam County Commissioners Monday. The tower is more than 20 years old, and it holds more than 15 antennas. If the antenna falls, Costin warned, it could strike nearby buildings as well as damage the courthouse and injure people in the area.
Also, if the tower collapses, Costin warned, all dispatching services for public agencies will stop.
"The area of most concern is the severe overloading of the towers with antennas and coaxial cables," the Tower Services company stated in its written report. "This model of tower was not designed to reliably support the present live load or resulting wind load."
The only options, Costin said, are to move some of the antennas off the tower, which would degrade the radio signals, or to build another tower with a climate-controlled shack underneath it to house the radio equipment. That second option would cost a bare minimum of $140,000, Costin said.
If the tower is built at the county highway garage southwest of Greencastle, there would be additional costs to run dedicated phone lines back to the dispatch center in the courthouse.
By the time the project would be completed, it could exceed $200,000, Costin said.
The tower and antenna issue is related to an effort to build a new emergency operations center for the county. That project as presented to the commissioner and county council in recent months has been estimated to cost less than $2 million for construction of the center, a training area, and relocation of the dispatch center to a building that is designed to withstand natural disasters and a terrorist attack.
A county committee of emergency personnel has been working on that project for six years.
That brought commissioner Dennis O'Hair to question why the county should sink at least $140,000 into a new tower and antennas, when pursuing the emergency operations center would solve the problem.
"It's crazy to go ahead and do this on top of the courthouse," O'Hair said of the antennas. "If there's any chance of doing this building in the next two years, that would be flushing money down the toilet."
Commissioner Beck agreed the county has been lucky so far that lightning has not damaged the tower.
The poor financial status of the county, however, means there is no funding for either project, commissioner Warren pointed out.
Once again, the commissioners noted that the county's Hazardous Waste Fund has enough money to finance the project, but use of that money is restricted by state law.
County emergency management director Kim Hyten encouraged county officials not to skimp on the project just to save money.
"911 is not something we should put a Band Aid on," Hyten said. "We're nickel and diming something that we can't nickel and dime."
"You're preaching to the choir here," Costin replied.
The commissioners directed Costin to get some more information together on the project, and be prepared to present it in July.
In other business, the commissioners:
-- Voted to use the Maximus company to pursue reimbursements for the county on a three-year contract. The county had used the company for about 30 years, but switched for this year based on a lower contract cost. Maximus representative Scott Hohl presented a contract that dropped from $7,250 (the cost for the past six years) to a rate of $5,437. Based on the savings, the commissioners voted to again use Maximus.
-- Learned that the Buzz Bomb monument at the courthouse may be making a return prior to July 1. An anonymous donor contributed to the restoration project.
-- Awarded a bridge repair contract for $42,514.70 to John Huber Construction for work on the Oakalla Covered Bridge, pending county council approval in July.
-- Heard from Brian Schutt, a public affairs specialist with Faulkner Strategies of Indianapolis, about the proposed natural gas pipeline to run through the northern portion of the county. Schutt said the company will try to locate the new 42-inch pipeline on existing utility corridors, but that may not be possible in some areas. Public meetings on the pipeline are planned for next week in Rockville and Plainfield.
-- Received information from Joanne Cole of the Humane Society of Putnam County that the group is interested in being the county agent for collecting the county dog tax. She presented some information on major kennels, and reported that the county's animal control ordinance committee has reached a final draft.
-- Received a continuity of operations plan from public health coordinator Steve Walters of the Putnam County Health Department concerning pandemic influenza. The plan outlines how the county could continue operations should a pandemic affect area residents. The commissioners tabled the information.
-- Agreed to use the engineering firm of Beam Longest and Neff as the county's consultant concerning Bridge 146, the Houck Iron Bridge, which has stalled with the engineer firm hired to take on the project. The county already has $93,000 invested in the project. The county is looking into how to get its money back on the project. The commissioners set a limit of $5,000 on the BLM contract.
-- Approved the Pheasant Run Estates Subdivision on CR 200 North and CR 50 East in Monroe Township, which divides 78.33 acres into five residential lots.
-- Approved a replat of Lot 10 in Edgelea Subdivision to change the setbacks.
-- Heard that two properties will come up for rezoning at the commissioners' July 3 meeting. The sites are 79.13 acres south of U.S. 40 on CR 375 west to be rezoned from agriculture to mineral extraction for Buzzi Unicem USA (formerly Lone Star Industries), and a 69 acre site on Ind. 243 near Burma Road to be developed for condominiums, single-family dwellings and assisted living. That project is called Tall Oaks Planned Unit Development.