New agreement will limit county radios to public safety uses

Whitfield County-owned encrypted radios can now only be used for public safety purposes. That's the central clause of a new intergovernmental agreement covering the radios approved by a 4-0 vote by members of the county Board of Commissioners on Monday.

Whitfield County adopted a new digital emergency radio system in 2017, replacing the 40-year-old analog technology the county had been using. The system, which cost some $12 million, was the top priority under the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) approved by voters in 2015. It serves all county first responders as well as those of the cities of Dalton, Cohutta, Tunnel Hill and Varnell.

Whitfield County Emergency Management Director Claude Craig said in June he was developing a formal policy regarding the radios. Craig made the comment shortly after a grand jury declined to indict Varnell Police Chief Lyle Grant for providing one of the radios to a private business. District Attorney Bert Poston said it was “particularly significant” that there was no formal policy concerning the use of the radios among the county and the cities.

Grant provided a radio to Bob Cummings, owner of Bob’s Wrecker Service in Dalton, a situation investigated first by the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office and then by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

The new agreement says the cities can't give or sell the radios to anyone else.

Dalton Mayor Dennis Mock and City Administrator Jason Parker said they had just received a copy of the agreement Monday and had not had a chance to review it. They said they expect the City Council will take up the agreement at its July 15 meeting.

Commissioners also voted 4-0 to approve a $16,684 bid from ProLogic ITS of Acworth to equip three pickup trucks for use by the Whitfield County Sheriff's Office for animal control.

Chairman Lynn Laughter typically votes only in the event of a tie.

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