Governor's office brought in to settle argument over communications funding - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Governor's office brought in to settle argument over communications funding

by Donna McCollum

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Livingston is just one of several East Texas cities with mobile command units. In 1994 Homeland Security bought the coaches as a way to improve communication. In 2009, antiquated radio equipment prevents emergency talk when it counts. "Hurricane Ike is a perfect example," said Mark Taylor, Livingston Fire Marshal. "Not being able to talk to those people while they're evacuating caused some problems for us, as everybody in East Texas realized and knows."

In a small room, there's another breakdown of communication. A meeting of the minds with political overtones. "There's about 1 point 3 million dollars at stake," said Janice Bruno, Communications Chief for the Governor's Division of Emergency Management, has a say where it goes. Harris and Galveston Counties want it for a communication plan that representatives say could buy equipment to create a regional network. "It facilitates communication for over 30,000 users and 512 agencies," explained John Chaney of Harris County.

In partnership is ETMC. The major health provider is tired of high rental rates for communication tower space. "Four thousand dollars a month for towers. That's ridiculous," commented an ETMC representative. So it's proposing to build the towers and provide space for emergency providers across East Texas, free of charge. Land hunts are underway in Groveton and Crockett.  

In the middle are 12 counties that feel slighted for not being informed of its entitlement to the money or the regional plan. "We just don't communicate," said John McDowell, Deep East Texas Council of Governments Homeland Security Director. "We really don't have an open line of communication between each other."

No matter who ends up with the funding, political feelings will be hurt. In the long run possibly jeopardizing a statewide goal to have a communications network in place by 2015.

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