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Carter Chief Deputy says state funds could mean improved local communication

John Thompson • May 11, 2020 at 11:14 PM

ELIZABETHTON — Could better communications throughout mountainous Carter County be one of the impacts of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Chief Deputy James Parrish made such a proposal Monday evening at the monthly meeting of the Budget Committee of the Carter County Commission.

The rugged terrain has always made radio communications difficult for emergency responders in the county. Many of the senior deputies of the sheriff’s department remember a time when officers had no communication with headquarters once they left Hampton for the higher elevations of the county.

While communications have improved dramatically in the past few decades, Parrish said improvements are still needed, especially in such emergencies as floods.

Parrish pointed out to the Budget Committee that the radios are not used by just first responders. Nearly every county department utilizes radio communications in administering the mountainous county. He said that the radios used by the Highway Department are especially important in weather emergencies.

Law enforcement agencies, volunteer fire departments, emergency medical responders, rescue squads and emergency management personnel are also dependent on good communication.

Parrish said the one-time funding promised by Gov. Bill Lee in response to the COVID-19 pandemic could provide the county with an opportunity for all these different county units to get on the same frequency and use the same equipment.

Parrish said the one-time money coming from the state is expected to total $936,000. The sheriff’s department was willing to include an additional $120,000 toward the project, to bring the total money available for communications improvements to more than $1 million.

That would be enough to replace the present system of mountaintop repeaters of a wide variety of brands and models with uniform repeaters that would be compatible with the radios of all the county agencies.

This was the first time that Parrish had made the suggestion to the Budget Committee and no action was taken Monday evening.

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