During the Sept. 9 Ad Hoc Committee, Mark DeWitte recommended expending $500,000 of state stimulus funding toward upgrading the county emergency radio system.

ROGERSVILLE – The Hawkins County Ad Hoc Committee that is advising the County Commission on how state and federal COVID-19 relief funds should be spent voted Sept. 9 to recommend that a resolution allocating $500,000 in state stimulus be spent to purchase and install critical emergency radio equipment at key sites around the county.

The project also includes th repurchase of new radios for police and some first responders.

Committee member Mark Dewitte, who offered the motion during an extended discussion on the emergency radio situation, said after Thursday’s meeting he will submit the resolution for consideration during the September County Commission meeting.

Hawkins County is expected to receive $11.1 million in federal stimulus funding which will have some restrictions on how it can be used, although those restrictions haven’t been finalized.

Hawkins County his also receiving approximately $800,000 in state stimulus funding which has no restrictions on how it can be spent. That is the funding recommended by the committee Thursday for the emergency radio system.

The county is currently completing a $425,000 emergency radio upgrade, and the new proposed expenditure would be in addition to that project.

DeWitte said the $500,000 state stimulus expenditure would be spent to switch the radio system from analog to digital, which is expected to greatly radio coverage dead areas.

Dewitte’s motion passed on a split vote that was taken at the conclusion of a lengthy discussion led by Hawkins County Emergency Management Agency Director Jamie Miller.

Committee members who voted against the $500,000 recommendation included Woody Boyd and chairman Randy Patterson.

During his presentation Miller outlined how an upgraded digital emergency radio system would provide better communication countywide for law enforcement officers and other emergency personnel.

Miller said he envisioned that project being done in two phases. Dewitte said his resolution was aimed at funding completion of the first phase using state stimulus funds only.

The Ad Hoc Committee heard several other requests at the Sept. 9 meeting.

In response to a request from Stanley Valley Volunteer Fire Department Chief Stacey Vaughan, Commissioner Danny Alvis made a motion no more that $60,000 be allocated to fund install fire hydrants in the Stanley Valley area.

But after some discussion, during which it was pointed out that other fire departments around the county might have similar requests, Alvis withdrew his motion and noted that other departments might come forth before the committee’s next meeting.

In another fire related matter, the committee also discussed a request that some of the approximately $11.1 million be used to purchase protective fire-fighting clothing for volunteer firefighters.

The committee also heard COVID-19 relief funding requests from:

Forward Flag, a veterans’ suicide prevention and training group;

Hawkins Habitat for Humanity for funding to replace lost revenue due to inability to fundraise;

The Hawkins County Rescue Squad for help with repairing the engine of its “heavy rescue” truck;

The Church Hill Rescue Squad for help with replacing its worn out light rescue truck; and

The Array of Hope ministry, which is seeking to purchase a new building and a delivery vehicle.

No action was taken during the meeting on these requests, however. Committee Chairman Randy Patterson said the committee plans to consider all the funding requests it receives before deciding which of them to forward to the County Commission’s Budget Committee for consideration.

Funding requests subsequently approved by the Budget Committee will then be presented to the full County Commission.

All request for federal stimulus funding are contingent on whether they fall within the final restrictions for use of that money.