By Jesse Wood
State, county and town officials and Motorola representatives will meet on Tuesday at the Watauga County Administration Building at 11 a.m. on June 28 to discuss the “possibility of going to VIPER,” which stands for Voice Interoperability Plan for Emergency Responders.
“Watauga County is trying to improve radio coverage for all emergency responders, and we’ve been in talks with the [Department of Public Safety] and their vendors about the possibility of going to VIPER,” said Jeff Virginia, emergency services director with Watauga County Communications.
Virginia said the meeting is for information purposes, and Motorola representatives will give a coverage analysis for Watauga County.
“We’re meeting tomorrow for the Motorola folks, which supplies equipment for VIPER, to see what we need, how many sites, [potential locations] and some costs,” Virginia said.
Concerns in Blowing Rock
Green Hill Circle, of course, is the location of hotly contested 100-foot public safety communications tower that was proposed two years ago. Following an uproar from concerned citizens in January 2014, Blowing Rock Town Council unanimously decided that “locating a tower on Green Hill will not be under further consideration.”
“Green Hill is a visually prominent part of our area. Consequently, the council has decided that its strong contribution to the beautiful views in the community should not be risked with the addition of a tower,” Fogleman wrote in a release at the time. “Research into other possible avenues to help improve public safety telecommunications in our service area is expected to continue, however locating a tower on Green Hill will not be under further consideration.”
Earlier this year, however, during the budget-planning season, the Blowing Rock Town Council received a letter from Marty Randall with the N.C. Department of Public Safety regarding renewed interest in a communications tower on Green Hill Circle for the VIPER network.
Blowing Rock Town Council Member Sue Sweeting said that the town wrote the N.C. Department of Public Safety telling them of the decision two years ago. But they are back again.
Due to the interest by members of the Blowing Rock Town Council on this proposal, the Town of Blowing Rock issued a public notice and called a special meeting for tomorrow, so that all of the council members could attend and avoid meeting laws.
“We want to go because we want to know where they are going to put it. There’s talk about putting it in Blowing Rock [at Green Hill Circle],” Blowing Rock Town Council Member Sue Sweeting said on Monday.
According to a public notice from the town, officials will meet for a “technical information meeting for public safety communication planning purposes” and is considered a “data gathering and education related meeting,” according to a public notice from the town. No action is planned.
Not Just About Blowing Rock
As Virginia said, the meeting isn’t just about a potential tower in Blowing Rock. The meeting will assess the needs of the entire county.
But as for the towers in general, Virginia said that the towers could be as tall as 100-foot – like the one previously proposed two years ago at Green Hill Circle.
“If one was proposed, the towers aren’t built any taller than they have to be, so any of the sites we look at could be anywhere from 60, 70, 80 feet up to 100 feet,” Virginia said.
Editor’s Note: This post replaces a previous post published early Monday regarding Tuesday’s meeting.