New radio system still a year away from being fully operational and other county news briefs

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ECC

~ PVN staff report

LURAY — The Page County Board of Supervisors were told during Monday night’s work session that it will be another year before the county’s new $5.5 million radio system upgrade is complete.

The 800-megahertz trunk system, which will connect with microwave towers in Harrisonburg, is about halfway through the process that began (in its early stages) amidst the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Once completed, the new system will have 87 percent mobile coverage throughout the county and 90-95 percent coverage for portable units used by emergency services and other county agencies.

First proposed with the addition of four tower sites, the county’s new radio system will now feature three tower sites after unresolved issues with the property owner of a site proposed in the Piney Hill area. Deleting the Piney Hill site from the project has trimmed about $600,000 from the total cost, lowering the project’s price tag from just over $6 million to about $5.4 million.

Towers at Tanner’s Ridge, Big Mountain and Kibler Hill are now preparing for inspections in the coming weeks and months, following their construction, generator installation, upgrades to shelters and installation of equipment at each site. Additional upgrades, like the installation of microwave towers on the roof, are also taking place at the county’s Emergency Communications Center (ECC), as well as additional grounding precautions and upgrades to the dispatch center.

Following a “staging” of the new system to get it up and running, final alignments and inspections over the next few months, coverage testing will begin in the third quarter to allow full foliage to grow on trees.

“We want to make sure we’re testing in the toughest conditions,” Cheryl Giggetts, a representative of the company completing the work, told supervisors on Monday.

Training of county staff will follow the coverage testing, prior to the start of operational testing in the fourth quarter of 2022. Final project reviews, adjustments and documentation is projected for completion in the first quarter of 2023, according to Giggett.

District 1 supervisor Keith Guzy asked the consultant to secure a document from each agency in the county that will be actively using the new radio system to “sign-off” on it at the project’s completion.

“We don’t want someone coming back later saying ‘I told you it didn’t work,'” Guzy said on Monday.

In other business during the April 4 work session, the board of supervisors:

• Recognized the county’s former Director of Emergency Services Woody Brown, who retired on March 1. Former Page County Fire-EMS Coordinator Matt Cronin is stepping into the Director position with more than a decade of experience in volunteer and career positions. In 2017, Brown joined Page County’s Fire and EMS Department as Emergency Services Coordinator, before being tapped as the Department’s Director in 2019. Brown retired with 34 years in volunteer and career emergency services positions in various jurisdictions.

• Unanimously adopted the “Ordinance to Amend Chapter 97(“Stormwater Management”), Section 16 (“Fees”) of the Page County, Virginia Code. The previous Page County code Chapter 97: Stormwater Management, Section 16: Fees, included the stormwater fee schedule in the text of the ordinance. Typically, fee schedules are included in the code by reference, to allow for changes to fees to be made without the need for a public hearing, but rather by resolution of the Board.

• Unanimously adopted, by resolution, the proposed changes to the Stormwater Fee Schedule as presented. The changes basically reflect frees that cover expenses, plus 5 percent. Page County must provide for inspections during construction for compliance with the approved erosion and sediment control plan; compliance with the approved stormwater management plan; development, updating, implementation of a pollution prevention plan; and development and implementation of any additional control measures. Currently, that county department does not have a certified stormwater inspector on staff. Erosion and sediment control inspector, Michelle Long, has been completing stormwater inspections to date, however, on a part-time status. The county has seen an increase in stormwater plan reviews in the last year. With stormwater reviews, comes stormwater inspections. With the Dogwood Solar project in plan review, Luray Landing beginning construction activity, and the massive influx of people moving to our area, county staff said they needed stormwater inspections provided by a third-party consultant (as deemed necessary). By making the fee schedule amendment, the county will be passing any additional expenses on to the applicant for plan review. Up to this point, the county has been “eating” the cost overages.

• Heard an update from Page County Sheriff Chad Cubbage on a drug interdiction program that included funding for two positions dedicated to that issue. The sheriff stated that the program is allowing his department to play “a wider role in making our community a safer place” by targeting “mid- to upper-level drug distribution.” Cubbage also claimed the work of the two deputies has provided “useful information for ongoing [regional drug] task force investigations” and that he is “already seeing a positive impact.” District 1 supervisor Keith Guzy questioned the sheriff about the data he provided related to arrests and seizures, asking that future reports separate local stats from regional task force stats.

• Heard a report from Nina Fox, director of the county’s Economic Development and Tourism department, about initiatives completed in her first year. Fox noted such projects as the picnic area built at the Alma boat landing (done in conjunction with the Recreation Department), the use of an agricultural grant to explore options to improve the future of farming in Page County, promotional videos providing local residents a “platform to be proud” of where they live, growing the department’s staff from one to three employees, launching an upgraded county website in January, the establishment of a new TOT committee and process for distributing those funds, meetings with the Towns of Shenandoah and Stanley, and plans for a June 30 “tourism summit.” Fox reported that 146 new businesses registered with the commissioner of the revenue in the past year, not including businesses opening up in one of the county’s three towns. She also spoke of plans to work with the Page Valley Fair Association to coordinate a wine-tasting event at the fairgrounds called “Taste of the Valley” later this summer. Fox also noted that TOT (Transient Occupancy Tax) funds are up 44 percent from this point last year.

• Heard a report from District 2 supervisor Allen Louderback that talks are underway among local investors to pursue a grant to help build a meat processing plant in Page County. The talks are in the early stages, but Louderback indicated that investors said they will need about $8 million to complete such a venture.

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