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Smith hopeful new 911 tower online soon; no word on US Cellular service

MORGANTOWN — It was originally believed the replacement of a 911 communications tower on Catherine’s Knob, in Monongalia County’s western end, would be a four-to-five month project.

That was 15 months ago.

MECCA 911 Director Jim Smith said Wednesday the supply chain issues that have dramatically impacted the tower replacement project have finally been resolved.

“All the equipment that we’ve been waiting for since before November to complete the 911 communications tower out in the western end, all that equipment has arrived now,” Smith told the Monongalia County Commission, adding, “We’re hoping over the next couple weeks we can get all the equipment back to the tower and the new equipment up to get that 911 communication tower back online.”

The new 340-foot freestanding tower replaced the 480-foot structure that stood in the Daybrook area for about 15 years, until a controlled demolition brought it down without incident Nov. 16, 2020.

Along with 911 communications, the tower also provided some cellular coverage in the area through US Cellular.

Smith said US Cellular does intend to put its equipment back on the new structure, but he’s not aware of a timeline for that work.

“Like us, they are having some issues getting their equipment in so they can get back on the tower, but I have spoken to their contractor and they are working toward getting that done,” Smith said.

The county commission provided just over $561,000 for the project in late 2020.

In other county news pertaining to emergency communications, the Kanawha County Commission is asking its counterparts across the state to support House Bill 4477, which would provide a retirement system for 911 telecommunicators.

According to the letter from Kanawha County Commissioner Lance Wheeler, the bill would allow telecommunicators to retire at age 50 with 20 years of service.

“This puts them on the same level in a pension system as their fellow first responders — law enforcement, fire service and EMS,” Wheeler explained.

Also on Wednesday, the commission held a moment of silence in honor of Sgt. Michael Todd May. Friday marks 10 years since May was killed in the line of duty when his cruiser was struck by Jerod Green, who was intoxicated and fleeing police in the early hours of Feb. 18, 2012.

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