Hawkins Co. Public Safety Committee votes to spend up to $30,000 to fix failing 911 communications system

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HAWKINS COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Hawkins county’s public safety committee took a long-awaited step to get the county back on track after a system failure where the towers linking the emergency communications system failed at the end of last year.

That system is made up of several towers that send and receive frequencies across the county. That system failure causing continuous issues for first responders and rescue squads in Hawkins county.

“Now, you’re running six, eight, nine, twelve people to a shift. You’re averaging a hundred calls a shift,” said Chief Tony Allen from the Hawkins Co. Sheriff’s Department. “Back then- one hot call a month… you’d talk about it all month long. Now we get four and five calls a day with a gun. That’s the reason why you’re hearing about it now. Times have changed.”

On one call from a plane crash in Surgoinsville in May- there was clicking noises and static. Something Hawkins Co. Rescue Squad Chief Corey Young says has been an ongoing issue.

Several county leaders and first-responders were in the heated meeting.

“You’re talking about something you know nothing about,” said Mayor Jim Lee to committee chair and commissioner Dawson Fields. Fields then said “Here you go!” He slammed the gavel and said- “How is that? Out of order… don’t talk anymore… So don’t fuss at me son…”

Lee responded, “You know nothing about it!” “You know what… I don’t but we’ve been waiting six months to find somebody to bite it,” said Fields.

The committee approved spending up to $30,000 to restore the system with the original provider- AMK while also exploring other options in the meantime.

One of those- a digital system costing more than $900,000. The other- a state operated radio system with a price tag of $4.5 million. Neither of those estimates included construction site costs.

Emergency Management Director Jamie Miller says the issue is worse, county wide and has become a problem with all first-responders.

“Our goal with fixing this system was not to take the system to where it was in November. Our goal with this was to take communications in this county where it’s never been,” Miller said.

Those working the front lines worry Wednesday’s vote for a temporary solution could become a permanent fix.

“No matter what… we have to be able to talk,” Young said. “That’s our lifeline to dispatch to be able to talk. We have got to have a reliable communications everywhere we cover throughout the county.”

The motion will go to the full commission at their monthly meeting, June 22nd at 6 pm at the Hawkins Co. Courthouse.

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