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Votes expected soon for these crucial Dawson County public safety projects
BOC Projects
File photo. - photo by Julia Hansen

The Board of Commissioners is set to vote on the next phases for two of Dawson County’s highest-priority public safety projects during their last meeting of the year. 

This story continues below.

During the board’s Dec. 1 work session, Dawson County Sheriff’s Office Maj. Greg Rowan requested the formal approval of a $3 million pre-set budget for the county’s radio system upgrade project, which has been bid out to Federal Engineering. 

At their Dec. 15 voting session, commissioners will be able to vote on that request as well as a $271,000 bid for the planned emergency operations (EOC) and E911 center.

Both projects will be paid for using funds collected for Dawson County’s seventh special purpose local option sales tax, which voters approved in March 2021. SPLOST VII included a planned $5.5 million for the EOC/E911 center and $3 million for the radio system upgrade, for a combined $8.5 million budget. These projects must be funded in full before any other initiative in the SPLOST project list. 

The county’s radio system was last upgraded about ten years ago. Its current problems include lacking coverage throughout the county when portable radios are used and inside buildings, heavy static, radios not transmitting to consoles inside the dispatch center and an inability to communicate with Hall, Forsyth, Cherokee and Cobb Counties. 

Recently, final specifications were completed for the radio system project after the board approved draft plans in July.

During his June 16 presentation, Brian Barber with Federal Engineering told the board that the 700-800 mhz option would provide for dedicated emergency services radio frequencies and better in-building coverage, among other benefits.

If approved, company Jericho Design Group’s EOC/E911 bid would include conceptual plans for the new building, stamped-and-sealed architectural and engineering plans, final designs and supervision of construction, said county Purchasing Manager Melissa Hawk. 

By extending the requested project deadline to the end of June 2023, the county will save $44,000, Hawk added. 

Currently, the upstairs portion of Fire Station 1 or headquarters serves as the EOC, while the E911 division is hosted in a small room at DCSO’s location. With the planned two-story building, each division would have about 6,000 square feet per floor, for a total of 12,000 square feet on the premises.

“We’re hoping that this goes on at the same time as the radio [project] so that when the radio system is going in, they don’t have to move it from the current 911 and put it over at the new location,” Hawk said. 

On that particular point, she elaborated that both EOC and radio system project money would be needed to complete the radio system, a view that BOC Chairman Billy Thurmond has also shared previously. 

“We’re trying to do the best we can with this building to save money to go toward the radio system,” she added.

District 3 Commissioner Tim Satterfield emphasized having DCSO and dispatch employees “sitting at the table” while the design is happening for the combined EOC/E911 center. 

Emergency services upgrades

Fire and EMS Chief Troy Leist asked the county commissioners on Dec. 1 about using $172,650 of remaining SPLOST VI funds for several key safety fixes. 

“If the board remembered when we talked about this in the budget process,” said Thurmond, “we did talk about using SPLOST funds to do these capital projects that we weren’t going to fund through the general funds. So this fits right in line with that.”

The BOC is expected to vote on authorizing the funds during their Dec. 15 voting session. 

Leist cited the need for a Lucas CPR device, staff vehicle for the department’s community risk reduction officer, battery-operated extrication equipment and three sets of air rescue lifting bags. 

He also requested upgrades to Fire Station 1’s bathroom, which he said “needs some tender loving care” and multi-station security upgrades for all eight of the county’s fire stations. 

The department’s previous director, Danny Thompson also discussed some of these needs during Aug. departmental hearings for the FY2023 budget.

At that time, Thompson and a division chief, Jason Dooley, also pointed to events like the July 2019 killing of Amy Gibson in front of Station 7 as a key reason for the security upgrades. 

Leist also told the commissioners that since his arrival, someone has made threats against people at Fire Station 1. 

“So I think it's time that we upgrade the station’s security features like the doors, much like what we have in this building with the [badge] cards and make it more secure,” Leist said.