A public-private venture will provide extended communications for Calhoun County during any emergency, thanks to a little “outside the box” thinking.

The county is partnering with Bill Cordell in Port O’Connor as well as Union Carbide Dow to add two additional towers to its communication system, said Calhoun County Commissioner, Precinct 1, David Hall. The county has been using a tower owned by Crown Castle.

“I had to think outside the box on how to make it possible with the least impact to the taxpayer,” said Hall.

Funding for the $1.4 million project is through the Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Relief out of Hurricane Harvey funds. These are HUD funds managed through the Texas General Land Office. It also includes funding for the Alamo Beach fire station and for the Chocolate Bayou and Lane drainage projects.

“This is a once in a career opportunity to make this huge of an improvement for the safety of our first responders and citizens,” said Hall.

Hall said this is something the county has needed for a long time.

“It’s currently being held together with baling wire and duct tape. We’re lucky we didn’t lose it in (Hurricane) Harvey. We came close, almost lost one antenna off the tower.”

One of the biggest issues having only one tower creates is first responders not being able to use handheld radios to stay in communication. This would leave them having to return to the ambulance, for example, for a higher wattage radio.

The additional towers will increase patient safety as well as increase safety for first responders.

Plus, Hall noted that with three towers during a major hurricane, two could be lost, and communications are still possible.

Hall said the county is allowed space on each of the towers.

“The three agreed to support our first responders and allowed us space on the towers for free to help protect our citizens. Tower leases are prohibitively expensive,” said Hall.

Hall said they would like to have the new system up and running by the end of the year, but there are a lot of logistics to go through.

Hall explained the county has also approved another project that would streamline the county’s FCC licenses to be used with the new system, which will combine all the frequencies on one computer, allowing the system to know which radio is talking and who it is.