By Tim Cox
Mercer County will not be getting a needed communications tower in St. Henry, but still will reap the benefits of nearly $86,000 in grant money from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
County commissioners on Tuesday approved spending the money for several different projects, all of them communications-based. Commissioners acted on a recommendation from the county's terrorism task force, which oversees the federal grant money.
The money will be used to buy back-up electrical generators for communications systems in Celina and Coldwater. The Rockford Fire Department also will get an emergency generator and some radio equipment to improve radio communications in the Rockford-Mendon-Chattanooga areas. The county Emergency Medical Service will get 39 new pagers for its emergency squad responders,
Most of the electrical and communications equipment will be purchased locally. Paysen Electric, Celina, is supplying the generator for Celina at a cost of $20,950 and Reasner Energy, Coldwater, is supplying the generator for Rockford at a cost of $4,500. The Rockford generator is coming from Electrical Solutions, Coldwater, and McAfee Communications, Celina, is selling the county the pagers for about $14,400. J&K Communications, Columbia City, Ind., won the only contract by a non-local company. The company will supply the Rockford radio communications gear for $24,430.
The purchases scuttle a previous plan to build a new 200-foot communications antenna in St. Henry that would have improved countywide radio communications. County officials are facing a Sept. 30 deadline to have the grant money spent and did not believe the tower project could be completed by then. County officials had tried to do the tower project but two bids received both far exceeded original estimates and there were other problems with the bidding process that forced commissioners to reject the proposals. The higher-than-expected bids exceeded the threshold for federal prevailing wage regulations, but the necessary paperwork for that was not included in the bid documents because county officials expected the bids to fall well below that level.
Commissioners had considered rebidding the project but eventually opted against that plan because of the time constraints.
Terrorism task force members approved the alternate projects because the equipment can be purchased before the grant deadline.