Rincon City Council members held off on committing their financial assistance to upgrades at the south communications tower, waiting to see just how committed Effingham County is to getting it fixed.
The tower, located in one of the southernmost parts of the county, has been virtually inoperable for several months after the frequencies for the tower were lost.
Rincon City Manager Wesley Corbitt said there has been “a little bit” of a hitch over the seven frequencies to be allotted to the south tower, though county officials believe it still can be accomplished by September.
“September may be a little optimistic,” he said.
Corbitt said that Wade Britt of Motorola believes the equipment can be delivered and in place by September, and he told council members the work has impetus from county commissioners.
“I was assured by two commissioners that they want to get this done,” Corbitt said.
Commissoiners are scheduled to discuss communications upgrades at their June 18 meeting.
Corbitt wanted to stress to the county to use its special service district funds, derived from taxes on the unincorporated areas, rather than general funds, which come from all property tax revenues, including those from the municipalities. The urging of using unincorporated areas’ property tax revenue is to avoid a double taxation, Corbitt explained.
“We are helping overall to keep taxes down,” he said. “The key is, are we sharing in this cost equitably?”
The county has asked Rincon to share in the costs of the tower upgrades. The overall cost is pegged at $531,000, and Rincon has been asked to kick in $80,000.
“It all came about as recognizing the need of the safety of our police officers and firefighters,” Mayor Ken Lee said. “It’s not like the county is holding a gun to our head — ‘give us $80,000 and we’ll get it started.’”
But council members were skeptical the county is primed to move forward on spending the money to fix the tower.
“I’m still at a loss that the $80,000 is going to move them to do it,” council member Paul Wendelken said. “I don’t see the liability on Rincon. I’ve got some issues about how it came about.”
Said council member Reese Browher: “It just doesn’t set well with me. For some reason, I’m not comfortable.”
To do the upgrades on its own for just its city police and fire departments’ communications is expected to cost Rincon about $103,000.
“But it would take us a while,” Corbitt said. “Everything is not going to be an emergency, and this sort of is. We’ve got folks in harm’s way, the city and the county.
“We made it clear we’re going to take care of the issue,” Corbitt said. “I think as they looked into it, it was a bigger issue for the county. The commissioners have stayed behind it and seem committed.”
When the cities and the county finally hammered out a service delivery strategy last year, the county set aside $5 million for projects in its special service district, Corbitt pointed out to council members.
“It’s a county-wide issue,” Wendelken said, “and it wasn’t addressed in service delivery (agreements).”
Corbitt advised council members that if the county intends to use general fund money for the tower plan, then city council should opt out of a cost-sharing agreement.
“Because we’d be paying double,” he said.
Corbitt said he told county counterparts the city council preferred seeing a permanent solution.