Houston Co, Trinity Co at odds with ETMC over towers

Houston Co, Trinity Co at odds with ETMC over towers
Source: KTRE staff
Source: KTRE staff

CROCKETT, TX (KTRE) - Two 400 foot tall towers in Deep East Texas are the newest issues in the battle between two counties and East Texas Medical Center.

According to Houston County Judge Erin Ford and Trinity County Judge Doug Page, the two counties have been approached by ETMC in regards to purchasing the towers. Both judges said the prices they have been told is around $400,000.

"It will hurt us because we have out emergency antennas on top of the towers," Ford said. "Right now we are at a place where we cannot afford that price."

"The sheriff's office, ambulance service, volunteer fire department services all work through the antennas on that tower," Page said.

Judge Page said he and Ford have been in talks about the options for the two counties and cannot understand the price.

"I've talked with a few people who understand these towers and they have valued a used tower like the ones Ford and I are dealing with to around $150,000 on the high end," Page said. "I see them trying to pull all their assets out of Trinity County." Ford told his commissioners the tower in Houston County has been valued around $190,000. Ford said his county has been given a payment plan option over a 10 year period, but even that costs is still to high. Ford points to the recent storm damage in the county to show how tight money is right now. Houston County was added to the presidential disaster declaration at the beginning of June for taking on an estimates $9.5 million worth of damage over a month long rain period. Ford also said the budget was already tight.

"We have significant costs right now so this was unanticipated," Ford said.

Page said the county is already looking at alternatives for their equipment if a deal is not reached with ETMC.

"We have a county owned tower in the Centerville area, that we could put some temporary equipment on," Page said. "It's not the ideal location. We would rather stay in the Groveton area were it is more centralized. We are also looking at the possibility of renting space on another tower near the ETMC one."

In Houston County, officials feel like the price is a money grab.

"I feel like they forget when they were looking for a tower site in this county, I became their point man and talked to several people and got them the site they are on now at no cost and you think they would take that into consideration," Houston County Emergency Management Coordinator David Lamb said.

Lamb said residents should not expect a stoppage in service.

"It is a concern, but it is nothing we can't work with," lamb said. We have alternate sites that we can use."

The towers were first installed in 2010. ETMC EMS said additional costs have been factored into the price.

"These are public safety grade towers," spokesman Jeff Haislet said. "They come with high quality buildings to keep gunshots from coming in and infiltrating the critical equipment. "There is a lot of costs involved with the environmental studies, the hoops that you have to go through with the FCC, with the FAA, the actual preparation of the ground, all the engineering that goes with these towers. It is more than 100,000 to build a tower like this."

Haislet said they will continue to work on negotiating a price. The issue was recently discussed at the Houston County Commissioners Court meeting. Judge Page said Trinity County will discuss the issue at the July 22 Commissioners meeting. Ford is also planning on discussing the matter with DETCOG.

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