Pole a boon for emergency management

Keri Thornton | Daily Press

911 Coordinator Marty Kimble said communications from this pole will be placed on the new monopole sometime between 2019 and 2020. The new one will be built at 996 College Ave.

Construction for a 150-foot monopole to boost the area's emergency management system is expected to begin within the next year, officials say.

Cherokee County 911 staffers, along with other first responders, will be able to use the pole through First Responder Network Authority.

During 9/11, first responders, fire, police and paramedics relied on a radio system.

However, due to the overwhelmingly high call volume, even making a phone call was a challenge.

The federal government and the Federal Communications Commission recommended a nationwide network for public safety communications.

In 2012, the First Responder Network Authority was signed into law. FirstNet is a nationwide, broadband network that equips first responders with reliable communication. It awarded an innovative 25-year contract to AT&T in 2017.

"Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T and everyone all have blocks of radio frequencies that they work within. The block 14 is between Verizon and AT&T, and the FFC carved that out and said no one can get on this; this is only for FirstNet," said 911 Coordinator Marty Kimble.

He added that 911 used to be based on the third floor of the Cherokee County Courthouse, but certain inconveniences meant first responder calls to places throughout the county sometimes got lost or disrupted.

"There were antennas on top of the courthouse, and we need that to reach out to the three fire paging sites in the county. We needed something here so when we page out for 911, it goes from here and directly out to those sites," said Kimble.

He added that it is very rare for a telephone company to allow a 911 call center to put its communications equipment on the top space of a monopole.

Due to the pole's standing at 150 feet, reach elevation will not be lost.

The AT&T monopole will be erected on AT&T property at 996 College Ave., adjacent to Cherokee County 911.

The Tahlequah Planning and Zoning Commission, during an April 18 meeting, approved a special use permit application.

Commissioners said that it offers first responders a communications network built and customized to meet their needs.

"911 has been looking for help with its facilities and communications for years," Ward 2 Commissioner Gary Cacy said during the April 18 meeting.

Preliminary drawings and design are in place, but no date has been officially set.

"There is a lot of work that has to be done; they have to get a geological report at the site," said Kimble.

AT&T Branch Communications Ty Knott said he hopes construction can get started between late 2019 and early 2020.

"We've still do not have a contract or lease for the equipment on it yet," said Kimble. "However, I'm confident that's coming soon and definitely before construction begins."

What's next

Further discussion on this topic may be held at a future Tahlequah City Council meeting.