New tower in southern end of county will enhance radio coverage when built
A new tower soon will stand tall in the southern end of the county, providing a massive upgrade in radio coverage to agencies working in areas south of N.C. 152.
The county is working with Motorola on the project.
Pending any unforeseen hurdles, county telecommunications officials said the tower will be a reality in the coming months.
From first responders to law enforcement to DOT workers, a variety of different agencies operating both in the county and in the city will be able to take advantage of the new tower.
The latest in a series of upgrades to the county’s telecommunications infrastructure, the coming tower is another result of funds from a quarter-cent sales tax approved by voters in a referendum in November 2009.
“We told the commissioners what we needed, they listened and they made it happen for us,” Rowan County E-911 and Telecommunications Director Rob Robinson said. “With the construction of the tower at the South Rowan site, we’re actually going to have a four-site system in this county. It is a massive improvement.”
The original, and largest, radio tower in the county is owned by the city and located at what Robinson called the “Hill Street Tower site” in Granite Quarry.
The county already has leased space on an existing tower at Young’s Mountain in the northwest part of the county and placed radio equipment there.
In the southeast, construction of another tower also is in the works, Robinson said.
“We have worked with the state, and they are building a new (Voice Interoperability Plan for Emergency Responders) tower down at High Rock Lake,” Robinson said.
While the county has to purchase the radio equipment to be placed on the VIPER tower, Robinson said using the space on the tower is free.
“If we don’t run into any hurdles, we should be finished with (both the South Rowan site tower and the VIPER tower) some time in the next 90 days,” Robinson said.
With the addition of the tower, Robinson said the county will be solid in street coverage and drastically improved in building coverage.
“It is dramatically improving the coverage of public safety officials in the county,” Robinson said. “We’re not the only ones who use it. You have Salisbury utilities, DOT, Rowan Transit and all these different agencies that also use our system.”
Robinson said the county worked out an agreement with the city to essentially share the towers.
“By doing this, we have beefed up the entire radio system that we all can use, so it helps us to be able to work together and better cover all parts of the county,” Robinson said.
Like a cell phone, a person’s radio signal will be handed off from tower to tower while that person is moving, and no interruption should be experienced, Robinson said.
“We have a voter comparator system on these four tower sites, so when you key up, the system constantly is evaluating which one has the strongest signal, and that is the one it lets you talk through,” Robinson said.
In regard to construction of the new tower in the south, Robinson said the plans are to start pouring concrete by the end of the month.
Rowan County Board of Commissioners Vice-Chairman Craig Pierce said the county is looking at selling space on the new tower to help offset the costs of construction.
“It is truly a long-term investment, but it will pay for itself,” Pierce said.
Sharing access to the county’s towers with the city also is important, Pierce said.
“This (radio system) is benefiting everybody in the county, including Salisbury. We would be remiss to keep it for us,” Pierce said. “(People in the city) are county taxpayers and helping to pay for the system. They should benefit from it.”