The idea of county-wide wifi might be within reach of Athens County residents.
Though that project is not planned for the immediate future, it might follow on the coattails of a project undertaken by Athens County 9-1-1 to improve communication between their towers and first responders.
In a presentation to Athens City Council members Monday, Athens County 9-1-1 Director Dan Pfeiffer and Athens County Planner Bob Eichenberg asked the council to support efforts to apply for a grant that would update the antiquated system the service is currently running on.
If the service were to receive the money, Pfeiffer said they would use the potential $500,000 grant to replace the old system with a new microwave transmitted system.
“We’re still using … copper twisted wire,” Councilman Steve Patterson, D-At Large, said. “This would make for better continuity between the towers.”
There are eight towers spread throughout the county working on the old system, he added.
“Its not the most efficient way, especially in the modern age,” Pfeiffer said.
On top of creating easier lines of communication for safety services around the county, Eichenberg said the project could potentially save the city money.
After a meeting with Athens Police Chief Tom Pyle about the project, Eichenberg said the microwave system could cut out the cellular system used by officers to report data and allow officers to link in to the larger system.
“Right now, we pay for a wireless card in the vehicle, so there is a cost saving element to this,” Service-Safety Director Paula Horan-Moseley said.
Pfeiffer said the microwave system would not only ease communication between safety services, but also potentially for businesses and other entities.
“That opens up a large pipeline for info around the county,” Pfeiffer said.
The upgrade is projected to cost about $400,000, Eichenberg said. The city would not have to contribute any money to the project, he added, but would only have to offer its support.
“The only thing we need from the city of Athens is your support and your signature,” Pfeiffer said.
It would be paid for by the Athens County 9-1-1.
The city would not have to host a new tower. Eichenberg said the new system would operate on the existing towers.
Beyond providing an efficient way for emergency services to communicate, Eichenberg said if a private company were to choose to invest in the system, the company could potentially provide county-wide wifi.
Council members also discussed amending an ordinance calling for a feasibility study for housing all Athens County emergency services in the same building.
The ordinance had reached its third and final reading, but had to be amended after the Athens County Commissioners asked that county services not be included in the study, Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl said.
“The county commissioners feel that there has been a feasibility study in the past … and therefore did not want to be included in this,” Wiehl said. “The commitment for dollars is not what they anticipated in their budget.”
Original plans for the new building included housing the Athens Police Department, the Athens Fire Department, the Ohio University Police Department, the Athens County Sheriff’s Office and Athens County 9-1-1 in the same location.
After amendments, the feasibility study will only include housing APD, OUPD and AFD, Patterson said.
Wiehl said he understood the commissioners’ apprehension.
“I have reservations as well with putting all our eggs in one basket,” he said.
The ordinance was sent back to its first reading.