by Andrew Martin
The plan to build a new communications tower for the Lamoille County Sheriff’s Department (LCSD) continues to be on hold. Sheriff Roger Marcoux and his partners had originally hoped to have the tower constructed before the FCC imposed narrowband restrictions that reduced bandwidth and coverage for radio communications at the beginning of 2013. However, several delays mean that the project has missed that deadline.
The plan to build a new communications tower for the LCSD and the department’s partners centers on constructing a new, large tower on land owned by the Jones family on Davis Hill near Garfield Crossroads in Hyde Park. The H.A. Manosh Corporation currently has a smaller tower on the same location and rents space on the tower to the LCSD, but in order to counteract the loss in coverage created by the switch to narrowband and the need to work with other first responder organizations around the state a newer, larger tower is needed. Along with the Lamoille County Sheriff’s Department other users of the new tower would be the Vermont Communications Board (VCOMM), Vermont Electric Power Company (VELCO), and several other local power companies and first responder entities.
One of the main delays in the project to build a new communications tower for the LCSD is a legal case between the H.A. Manosh Corporation and the Lloyd Jones family of Hyde Park. There can be only one tower on the land owned by the Jones family, and according to Sheriff Roger Marcoux the case centers around the fact that the Jones family wishes to now lease the space to the LCSD and the department’s partners. However, the Manosh Corporation believes that they have the right to remain on the site in perpetuity and for that reason took the matter to court. According to the Lamoille Superior Court-Civil Division, a hearing regarding the case was held on October 29 and the case will be going to court trial sometime in the coming week.
“We are in a hold pattern until the disagreement between the Jones family and Manosh Corporation is resolved,” explained Sheriff Marcoux, “We can’t do anything until that issue is resolved.” Marcoux went on to explain that no matter who wins the case he hopes to work with them in remedying the current issues in communication that his department and other first responders face.
The delay in resolving the issues surrounding the project and constructing the new tower has led to a loss in coverage following the implementation of narrowband by the FCC. According to Sheriff Marcoux the reduction in coverage means that areas where radio communication was once clear are now sometimes scratchy and areas where radio communication barely came in before have now often been lost. However, the LCSD is still able to provide dispatch and communication services for the towns and organizations that contract with it to do so.
“We may have to put up some new antennas to make up for the loss,” explained Marcoux, “We already have a grant for a repeater to be placed somewhere in the North Hyde Park area, which had poor coverage before the switch. The repeater should help those departments with radio communications.”
Along with the loss in coverage that has been created by the delay in constructing the new tower, the LCSD has also lost its funding for the project. Several large grants had been acquired for the project, but the deadline to use those funds has now passed, meaning that new grant funding will now have to be found to fund the construction of the new tower.
“Once the court case is resolved we will go back to the grinding wheel to see what is out there for money for the tower,” stated Marcoux, “If we have a place to put the new tower, we will find the money.”
Marcoux also explained that the project to build the new tower has already received a Certificate of Public Good, but that the awarding of the certificate is contingent on the issue between the Jones family and the Manosh Corporation being resolved. Marcoux and his partners plan to deal with any other necessary permits or legal documents after the court case has been resolved.