Covington agreement clears way for emergency radio tower

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COVINGTON, Ky. - A digital radio tower that enables police, fire and other first responders to communicate during emergencies in the northern part of Kenton County will be built in a wooded area on the edge of Devou Park, replacing the nearby tower that was damaged by a storm and torn down last August.
The Covington City Commission voted 5-0 tonight to execute an agreement giving Kenton County Fiscal Court the right to build the tower.
Since August, the emergency communications system has been operating under a temporary set-up, first using a borrowed tower near the original site and then using a City of Cincinnati tower in Mount Echo Park across the Ohio River.
But those arrangements have created dead spots leading to garbled transmissions as well as dropped and missed calls, Covington Fire Chief Mark Pierce said.
“That tower being in that area is pretty mission critical for us - not just us but for anyone operating in the river valley,” Pierce said. “Without that there, our coverage is diminished.”
The previous tower was located on property owned by the Children’s Home of Northern Kentucky. Ironically, talks were already under way between the City and County to replace and move the tower when workers discovered a fallen tree had fallen on its guy wires, destroying them and twisting the tower itself.
The new site is a piece of elevated ground to the south of that site, in a wooded area west of Home Road and north of Montague Road. A small access road will be built off of Montague.
City Manager David Johnston said neither the City nor Devou Park had any future plans to develop the area for a recreation purpose.
“It’s really the best site,” Interim City Solicitor Michael Bartlett told the City Commission in a presentation last week.
The agreement does not allow any private, third-party companies to use space on the tower for commercial purposes, such as cellular service. But the agreement could be amended in the future if such use becomes feasible, legal and appropriate.
County Administrator Joe Shriver told the City Commission last week that geotech borings had already been done at the site and that the county would move quickly to build the three-sided, free-standing tower so it could be tested before the trees lost their leaves this fall.
Johnston said the City and County both knew that they had to move quickly on the tower to protect both residents and emergency personnel.
“We’ve developed a good collaborative relationship with the County that continues to grow stronger,” Johnston said. “This is another example of how government entities can and should work together to help the people they serve.”
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