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County to build public safety antenna on Old Medlock Bridge

City opts for one taller tower over two smaller ones

June 12, 2014
JOHNS CREEK, Ga. Johns Creek is going ahead with plans to build a 400-foot public safety radio antenna tower on property at 9855 Old Medlock Bridge Road, which is near the old Warsaw Elementary School and is described as a commercial area.

The antenna is part of the new countywide public safety radio net for police, fire and emergency personnel, now that the county's current system is at "end of life" and must be replaced.

The other cities of Roswell, Alpharetta, Sandy Springs, Milton and Mountain Park have opted to build a separate radio net that will "talk" to the countywide system. Johns Creek decided it was cheaper in the long run to be part of the county net than come up with the $2 million buy-in paid upfront to join the North Fulton net.

The $508,328 cost of the antenna will be paid by Fulton County but reimbursed by the city. Johns Creek will then own the tower and may derive revenue from leasing space on the tower to communications companies.

"This was not a budget item, but it comes out of the city's fund reserve," said Finance Director Monte Vavra.

The city has around $29 million in its fund reserve.

Engineering Associates Inc. is the city's consultant on the project. Wireless Systems Manager Mike McGannon said the protocol with Fulton County would be for 10 years and renewable for 20 years more.

"It's a 30-year platform," McGannon said.

Mayor Mike Bodker said the choice was one 400-foot tower at Old Medlock Bridge Road or two 200-foot towers in other locations in the city.

"I think we impact the city less with one tower. I'm told we could reduce the height to 200 feet, but then we would need an additional one, possibly two towers throughout the city," said Bodker.

"This new tower will ensure that the voice needs of our police officers, EMTs and firefighters will have immediate radio contact. This tower will give us that," he said.

The Fulton School Board also has concerns that school police officers should be able to have radio signals that penetrate school walls in all locations. This tower should ensure that.

The city and county have entered into an intergovernmental agreement to complete the project to assure the safety of the citizens and the reliable dispatch of first responders in emergencies.

Using the Motorola system will also ensure Johns Creek and its mutual aid partners in Forsyth, Fulton, DeKalb and Gwinnett counties will have unimpeded and direct radio contact.

Executive Editor, Appen Media.
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Tags: Community & Outreach, Government & News & Crime

  1. report print email
    Was Not Signed
    June 14, 2014 | 12:37 PM

    This issue was deferred at the last city council meeting on 6/2. Where do you get the nerve/knowledge to state it is approved? Know something the public doesn't Hatcher?

    The Tower will be on the 6/30 Agenda with a public hearing. This structure is so outrageous, what town or municipality did they benchmark? It is 100 feet taller then the Statue of Liberty! In the center of Johns Creek with strobe lights. Outrageous. Adamantly Opposed.

    Johns Creek
  2. report print email
    June 14, 2014 | 12:45 PM

    Whoever said/insist alternatives are None, needs to be fired. In this day an age, there are many options before erecting a 400 foot tower with strobe lights in a residential area.

    For an upscale city like Johns Creek, I hope our elected officials make a wise choice and demand better.

    Johns Creek
  3. report print email
    June 16, 2014 | 10:17 AM

    This is absurd. There must be more to the story. Campaign contributions? Concessions?

    Johns Creek
  4. report print email
    400 Foot Tower
    June 16, 2014 | 02:45 PM

    Why would Johns Creek want to have anything to do woth Fulton County? You know it's a bad deal if Fulton County has anything to do woth it. Spend several millions of dollars for out of date technology!

    Robert Kern
  5. report print email
    400 foot tower
    June 23, 2014 | 04:27 PM

    Do you realize that the JCPD and JCFD have radio issues every day? There are spots in the city where first responders can not transmit clearly and being inside certain buildings makes it next to impossible to communicate. If this tower helps the men and women who put their life on the line every day, then there is no debate in my mind.

    Town Crier
    Johns Creek
  6. report print email
    It's needed
    June 29, 2014 | 09:17 PM

    I don't have a dog in the fight. But many comments I have read are based on misinformation, emotion and conjecture.

    No one likes a huge tower. That's a given. If this were for a cellular company, I would tell them to find an alternative.

    This is for public safety land mobile radio. A police officer or firefighter depends on their radio as a lifeline. Simply put IT HAS TO WORK regardless of rain, sleet, snow, fire, flood, terrorism, etc. Land Mobile radio systems are reliable, cost effective and long running at that.

    The current system used by JCPD, JCFD and Rural Metro was installed in 1991. You heard right. 1991. That was close to 25 years ago. It is owned by Fulton county and agencies lease the use of talkgroups on it so they don't have to procure their own system, which cost millions of tax dollars.

    The current system has served the county and the north Fulton cities well considering the age and technology used. However every day it is becoming more and more unreliable. It was designed for a different era and for MOBILE coverage. Replacement parts are no longer available from the vendor as is support.

    Designing a replacement LMR system to cover an area like North Fulton with challenging terrain means either adding multiple smaller sites or fewer larger sites.

    Guess which one costs more all around: more sites. Guess which one means more to maintain in the long run. Johns Creek is joining with other cities to build out a new system that they will be a stakeholder in, and to do this right means selecting key sites for optimum overall coverage, and keeping cost as low as possible.

    A 400 foot tower is not that excessive considering the terrain and coverage to be obtained, and we are talking PORTABLE radio coverage. This makes it possible for PD, Fire and EMS workers to have reliable in-building coverage where they don't have any now. They NEED a reliable system core that doesn't go into "FAILSOFT" when they are doing their jobs, they do not have that now.

    This is needed to keep your public safety workers safe. They don't have it now and prolonging the inevitable is only doing them a disservice. When your home or business is on fire, you want your firefighters to have solid coverage on the fireground. When you police are on a dangerous traffic stop or pursuing suspects, you want their calls for backup to be heard. When an EMT is in your home calling to his crew for a stretcher, you want that call to go out.

    Tower sites and connected infrastructure make that possible. Physics of RF propagation and RF attenuation dictate the size and scope of the sites needed.

    Erik Bagby
    Smyrna, GA
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