With an emergency radio system that has seen better days, the Monroe County Commission voted by a narrow margin on Sept. 24 to sign a contract with Motorola to provide new radios for all county offices that use them.

While the radio system has been in need of upgrading for several years, according to most accounts, the new Justice Center’s thick walls might have been the tipping point to getting one.

A letter from Monroe County Mayor Mitch Ingram and Monroe County Sheriff Tommy Jones II said the state fire marshal would not issue a Certificate of Occupancy for the center if radio signals could not get in and out of the building.

Radio Systems Analyst Todd Overbey then performed a survey of the current radio system, found several problems, and said the county should look at using the Tennessee Valley Radio Communication System through Motorola.

The Radio Advisory Committee did meet with a representative from Motorola and came to the conclusion it was the best option for the county’s radio system.

Motorola did give the county several incentives, including a $40,000 credit for any radio equipment they might need and the first payment for the radios and system will be deferred for one year to allow the county to budget for it.

The costs of the radios and system is $450,000 a year until the full $3.2 million is paid, but Motorola will take over maintenance and replace any equipment that stops working without cost. The Radio Advisory Committee said this was about what it was costing to keep repairing the old system.

Even with the concessions and the promise of no costs until next year, some commissioners still had doubt. Commissioner Chris Wiseman asked if this was the lowest price the county could get.

“I just want the county to always do its due diligence,” he said.

Monroe County Finance Director Libby Hicks seemed rankled by Wiseman’s question and said, “The state always gets the best bid it can and we found it was the best bid. We did do our due diligence.”

The motion to contract with Motorola ended up passing by a vote of 6-4.

In another area that has stuck in the craw of some commissioners, the commission voted to allow Sons Construction to test burn 30 bales of switch grass that is sitting on county property in the Niles Ferry Industrial Park in Vonore.

The grass is left over from Genera’s attempt to make fuel out of it. Sons has offered to buy the land the grass is on, but several commissioners didn’t like the price they offered.

The grass burning agreement is actually between Sons Construction and Genera, meaning the county won’t have anything to do with it if something goes wrong.

Commissioner Paulette Summey, who represents the Vonore area on the County Commission, said her constituents had asked her to vote against it, but Commissioner Joe Anderson said something had to be done with the grass and they should at least be allowed to try.

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