County Takes Another Step Toward Communication Towers

Kosciusko County Courthouse.

While no communication towers will be going up this year, Kosciusko County commissioners Tuesday approved a step in the process that could lead to countywide broadband internet.

Terry Burnworth, owner of Pyramid Consulting, who has been working with the county on its public safety communications system, asked the county commissioners Tuesday morning “to send out the request for proposals for a radio vendor for the architecture of the land mobile radio system and basically public safety broadband system.”

He said with the commissioners’ approval, the schedule would be “that we would have (information) available to vendors on (July 8), we would have a presubmission meeting with vendors on (July 15) and then it would be presentation of submissions on Aug. 18, and then we go through about a six-week review process. Because it’s an RFP, not a hard bid.” He said Indiana Code 5.29 allows for the county to go through that process.

Commissioner Brad Jackson asked, “So you feel it’s the best for the money and the best product service, etc., etc.?”

Burnworth said, “Absolutely. I’ve done hundreds of these, and what it does is, the vendors now know they’re really in competition and they sharpen the pencil, and you see reductions of 20 and 30% on the values.”

Commissioner Cary Groninger said he’s been involved in the process since the beginning on the tower side and he knows Burnworth has worked hard on this.

“This is something that he does, he specializes in, to get people to think outside of the box of what really is going to be best for our county and what is going to be the most cost-effective way to do that, versus the hard specification – where chances are one vendor may have a competitive advantage – where this allows each vendor to look at where their strengths are and come up with a plan to really give us a communication system that meets the needs in our community. So I think this is a great thing to do,” Groninger said.

He said it’s still going to take some time to get done, about 18 months, “so it’s not like this is going to happen tomorrow, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

Bob Conley, commissioner, said, “The big thing about this whole concept is that we’ll put towers strategically throughout the county that will help the police, fire, EMS and even the public with broadband capabilities so we don’t have any deadspots in the county. It’s huge when it comes to someone in Sidney that doesn’t have any service.”

The commissioners unanimously approved Burnworth’s request.

In other business, the commissioners approved:

• Health Department Administrator Bob Weaver’s request to reapply for the Public Health Emergency Preparedness grant for 2021 for $31,895. The county received the grant for the last 13-14 years.

• Letters of support as requested by Community Corrections Director Barry Andrew to apply for Community Corrections and Drug Court grants.

• The subrecipient agreement between the county and Kosciusko Economic Development Corp. The Office of Community and Rural Affairs awarded the county $245,000 to support KEDCo.’s Small Business Relief Fund. The subrecipient agreement allows KEDCo. to administer the funds and lays out the rules of the program.

• A settlement agreement on a wage dispute the county had with a former employee, as presented by county attorney Chad Miner. There was a discrepancy between the former employee’s actual pay and statutory pay. Miner said the council and the former employee already signed on the agreement so the commissioners needed to give final approval to “wrap it up.”

• Letters of support for the town of Syracuse for a Community Crossings grant. The letters will be sent to State Senators Blake Doriot and Ryan Mishler and State Representatives Dave Wolkins and Curt Nisly.

• Highway Superintendent Steve Moriarty’s requests to reduce the speed limit from 45 to 35 mph on CR 1200N between CR 450N and Syracuse-Webster Road and to 30 mph on Kalorama Road from CR 650N to CR 750N.

• The Area Plan Commission’s recommendation to vacate a portion of roadway within Epworth Forest, as presented by Area Plan Director Dan Richard. The vacation was requested by Jason Nolley and Gina Ruff, represented by attorney Richard Helm. There were no remonstrators.

• To table Wawasee Marina Inc.’s petition to vacate public way in Turkey Creek Township. It was tabled in May to Tuesday’s meeting. Attorney Steve Snyder, on behalf of Wawasee Marina, requested the second continuance to July 21. “We have a settlement with one adjacent owner (that would) realign some property lines and provides an easement for access in regard to Channel Drive,” Snyder said. He said they want to get that in writing and signed before the vacation is finished.

• The Area Plan Commission’s recommendation to deny Tori Fehr’s petition to rezone 54 acres from residential to agriculture. The property is just north of the town of Silver Lake.

Richard said the Area Plan spent quite a bit of time on the rezoning petition and remonstrance. Fehr wants to use her property for horses and family camping. Richard directed her to the Board of Zoning Appeals for an exception in a residential district, which might allow her to have restricted agricultural and camping uses.

The next commissioners meeting is at 9 a.m. July 7.