County expands resiliency through radio waves

Tulare County Board of Supervisors approves $3.1 million contract to build seven new radio towers throughout the county for increased clarity and resiliency

TULARE COUNTY – The county approved the use of government funding to pay for upgraded radio tower systems which will enhance the existing radio coverage for the county’s public safety department.

On March 21, the Tulare County Board of Supervisors awarded the contract for a radio tower design and construction project. This project is the addition of seven new radio towers throughout the county including Porterville, Exeter, Earlimart, Richgrove, Tipton, Traver and Goshen. The contract has been granted to Tashjian Towers Corporation in the amount of $3,160,213.33 to complete the build out of all seven towers. Director of Tulare County Information Technology Communications, Joe Halford, said   this is an exciting improvement for the county’s public safety department and construction should start soon.

Photo by Rigo Moran

“It is an exciting project because it is going to increase the radio capacity resiliency of our radio infrastructure, which is going to be a benefit for our public safety team members,” Halford said.

The cost of this project will be covered entirely through funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, (ARPA). Signed into law by President Biden in May 2021, the $1.9 trillion in ARPA funding can be used for a variety of projects including infrastructure improvements in water, sewer and broadband internet access and for a broad category of funding to “support government services.” Halford said they have until 2026 to complete the project so they are trying to get started as soon as possible.

Currently there are 18 tower locations throughout the county according to Halford. The addition of the seven brand new towers allows for increased clarity and resiliency within public safety communications. Halford said if there was a disaster that wiped out a handful of towers, the county would not be able to handle it as well without the addition of the more technologically advanced towers.

According to the staff report, the proposed towers will enhance the existing radio coverage, support high-speed county intranet communication and provide a framework for future capabilities such as simulcast. The new towers will help cover a more broad spectrum and fill the gaps and radio shadows or areas where radio frequency is covered by objects.

Photo by Rigo Moran

“We have radio towers that cover parts of the mountains and also the valley floor,” Halford said. “So I would say what we have is adequate, it works, it’s functional and it’s good for public safety, but what this will do is give us some additional resiliency.”

Additionally, these improvements will help overall quality of the connections as well as modernize the technology that is currently existing. The new towers will be built at Porterville Rocky Hill, Earlimart Sheriff Substation, Richgrove Fire Station #10, Tipton Fire Station #6, Traver Fire Station #2, Goshen Fire Station #7 and Exeter Rocky Hill. Halford said it essentially lays the groundwork for further improvements.

Now that the project has received approval, Halford said he expects construction to begin as soon as the next few weeks. The tower heights will range from 100 feet to 140 feet depending on the tower location according to the staff report. In addition to the $3,160,213, the board also approved an allotment of funds for contingencies in the amount of 10%, or $316,021.33 to cover unexpected construction conditions.

Due to the cost of the project, without ARPA funding, the county would have had to continue using what they have now. The funding has allowed the county the opportunity to improve technology and public safety.

“It will lay the groundwork for us to continue modernizing it, which will improve the quality of communication, no matter where you are in the county. And so once we get the towers in, we’ll be able to [continue to] improve the technology,” Halford said.

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