By jeanne Starmack
Mahoning County is moving closer to addressing the problem of inadequate police-radio communications in Lowellville.
Clark Jones, the county’s emergency management director, met with county commissioners Thursday to update them on the progress of solving a problem that police and the village mayor say has rendered police portable radios useless. Police can’t hear the dispatcher on the radios, and they cannot use them to call for help.
The fire department is not affected. It uses a different dispatch system. Lowellville police is one of 13 Mahoning County 911 clients.
The problem with spotty radio communications is occurring throughout the country, said David Catauro, senior dispatcher for Mahoning County 911.
Catauro said that’s been the case since the Federal Communications Commission ordered narrower bandwidth for all radio frequencies earlier this year.
Lowellville is affected because it is in a geographical low spot, he and Jones said.
Jones said in July that the county had found a site on Knox Street off South Avenue for a new transmitter-receiver that should help Lowellville.
He said then that the FCC had to approve a license for the new equipment. That has been done, he said Thursday.
“They have issued a temporary license,” he said. “Now, we have to sign a lease agreement with Clear Channel Radio for use of the tower on Knox Street. We will add equipment to the tower. We were lucky enough to find a tower, let alone space on it,” he said.
Jones said Clear Channel is leasing the tower space to the county at no charge because of the benefit to public safety.
The commissioners are committed to releasing $30,000 for the equipment and labor to install it and will “fast-track” that release, said Commissioner Anthony Traficanti.
“Putting the equipment on the tower won’t be time-consuming,” said Jones, adding that the lease and the FCC license application took the most time.
“I think Lowellville’s perception is that I’m not doing anything, and that is not the case,” Jones said.
Jones said the lease will now go to the prosecutor’s office for review.