Hawkins County Emergency Management Agency Director Gary Murrell said that on Thursday he and technicians completed the installation of radio equipment to a new 300-foot antenna on Bays Mountain about a quarter- mile west of where the system previously shared space with the Kingsport system.
Murrell then contacted Mount Carmel police to see if they were receiving a signal in dead areas where signals previously hadn’t penetrated.
“We did a radio test in different areas up the upper (eastern) end of the county, and it worked in different places where it hadn’t worked before,” Murrell said.
“We’ve always had trouble getting a signal to Big Elm Road on the river, the upper end of Carters Valley, Stanley Valley near the state line and some areas of Beech Creek. We’re still monitoring it, and if Central Dispatch has a problem they’ll find out where the officer is and make a note of it.
“But so far we’ve not had any complaints, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed,” he said.
Last month Mount Carmel Mayor Gary Lawson announced that Kingsport will be completing a feasibility study for the town to determine the possibility of switching the Mount Carmel Police Department over to Kingsport Central Dispatch. The main complaint was radio dead spots in the town that hadn’t been addressed by the county until recently.
MCPD Chief Jeff Jackson said Sunday that the recent radio improvements in Hawkins County are long overdue but appreciated.
He added, however, that the Kingsport study will still move forward.
“We’re going to have to keep an eye on the radio system for a while before we come to any final conclusions,” Jackson said. “The problem we’ve had in the past is it works one day and then it doesn’t work the next. The trick is to find something that works and then see if it’s consistent.
“We going to complete the feasibility study because we want to make sure that we do have consistent communications.”
This week a police radio system will be installed on a new 300-foot antenna on Clinch Mountain as well. Both of the Bays and Clinch mountain antennas were purchased through Homeland Security grants.
Murrell said he’d like to report that the new antennas will eliminate all radio dead space in the county, but only time will tell.
“I’ve worked in Greene County and I’ve worked Sullivan County with the Narcotics Task Force, and the reality of it is there are dead spots in every county,” Murrell said. “With the terrain we’ve got in this region there’s going to be a dead spot here and there, just like with your cell phone service. In a perfect world we wouldn’t have dead spots, but I don’t know if there can be a perfect world with the hills and the valleys we’ve got in East Tennessee.
“We’ve covered areas that haven’t been covered before and we’re not aware of any dead spots on the upper end at this time, but I'm not going to promise that there aren't a few.”