WOOD COUNTY, W.Va.-(WTAP) Updated: 2/7/2019
Image: MGN Graphics
A change in a federal grant program, allowing private companies to locate cell phone services on towers built for emergency communications, provides hope for Wood County: hope of changes for communities mostly lacking cell service.
"You can't make a private business spend their money," said Blair Couch, President, Wood County Commission, "We can't tell Chick-Fil-A to open on Sunday. We can't tell AT&T to put a cell service on there. We can hope. But we know the community in Belleville is upset by the lack of cell service."
Frustration that came to the surface during the 2019 tornado.
But, for now, the main purpose of a planned tower in southern Wood County is to enhance 911 communications for first responders, in areas where it is lacking.
Three firms have been narrowed down for an engineering study, for a tower that would complete a network extending from Pittsburgh to Huntington.
"We would be able to put a state inter-operable radio network system in there," Rick Woodyard, Director, Wood County 911 Center, "as well as our legacy fire, sheriff, EMS frequencies there. This will be a great enhancement for our first responders."
Chemours provided access in 2018 to property it owns for the 340-foot tower. If the engineering studies confirm the site will accommodate it, construction could last eight months.
The Wood County Commission Monday approved an agreement leading to construction of a new 911 communications tower.
The proposed 340-foot tower is to be built on property owned by Chemours.
It will provide communications for area fire departments as well as the sheriff's office and emergency medical services.
It will also give the 911 center wider radio coverage.
"That was the last link that we had to use radio along the rivers, for river commerce and trains, and the dam sites," says 911 Director Rick Woodyard. "We'll be able to talk from the port of Pittsburgh to the port of Huntington."
The commission's approval of an easement on the Chemours property in Washington, West Virginia allows the county to build the tower on that site.
It's hoped construction of the tower will take eight months.