By JUDY SHERIDAN
Aledo ISD police seeking space on the city’s new water tower for five antennas got less than optimum reception from the Aledo City Council Thursday, which took no action, but promised to consider the request after developing a long-term plan.
Aledo ISD Officer Chris Morrison gave the presentation to the council, saying the change would boost public and school safety.
“ … I know that you’re coming to us because you do care very much about the children in the school district,” Mayor Kit Marshall said, after recounting the city’s history of planning. “Our council cares very much about the children, not only in the school district, but specifically the children that reside in the city of Aledo — which is a much smaller footprint.
“We’ll direct staff to do some more research … and then be in communication with the ISD and ask that you come back to have future discussion.”
“Seven of our schools are within your city limits,” AISD Police Chief Chawn Gilliland responded.
“Yes … and we’re proud of that,” Marshall said.
Morrison said the city’s new water tower is the prime spot for the district’s antennas, centrally located, spacious enough to expand the number of antennas from two to five and 100 feet higher than the existing location, on top of a bus barn near MacAnally Intermediate School.
Morrison said the change would improve communications with McCall Elementary — now obstructed by a high ridge of land — and eliminate dead spots for school buses in the Rolling Hills area.
“It will allow additional communication between the police and other departments — and this would be from the city’s perspective,” he said. “The schools; city of Aledo officials and various departments can all talk – the Aledo Fire Department and the Aledo deputy.”
Morrison said five antennas are optimum because one would be devoted solely to communication control and another to school buses, leaving three for concurrent conversations.
“Right now we can do one conversation,” he said, “so one person can hold the whole radio system up.”
Morrison showed the council how the 10-foot high antennas would look on the tower, set in a circular structure. Coming into the meeting, city staff recommended against council approval on the basis that the installation would appear unsightly on the small tank.
Morrison also talked up the advantages of digital radio systems, saying they reduce noise, increase range and call capacity and allow encrypted communications, preventing access by the casual listener. He said the system allows emergency calls to take precedence, bumping others.
To install the antennas, Morrison said, police need space in the tower’s base for radio cabinets, space on top for handrails to mount the antennas, permission to install a cable management infrastructure system — to be shared with the city — two power circuits, permission to attach to the existing ground wire with antenna lightning arrestors, 24/7, 365-day access to perform maintenance, and the right to verify that future radios purchased by the city are compatible.
Morrison said the school district would need to buy a backup generator in the future and would be willing to size it for the city’s needs, as well as provide for its maintenance.
The city would be allowed to use the district’s radio system for up to 20 radio units purchased by the city, Morrison said, which the district would program as needed. He estimated the cost at $465 per radio.
He said the city would also have access to the district’s pool of 20 radios.
Mayor Pro Tem Bill McLeRoy imagined an emergency situation and asked if radio frequencies used by the district interlocked with those of the Parker County Sheriff and other first responders and was told that they did not.
“We carry two radios, one that covers the sheriff’s office and other fire departments outside of the Aledo area,” he said, “but that’s a separate radio system.”
Councilmember Jean Bailey said the city should be compensated for the use of the tower.
“I don’t see that Aledo’s getting much out of this,” she said. “The only way I see that we benefit from allowing you all to use our tower is the possible use of maybe a future generator. We have to buy our radios …
“If this were a commercial entity that came and wanted to use our tower they would be giving us some other reasons to do it,” she said. “I don’t know that we have looked at having anything more until this discussion, but pardon me for being very cynical, I personally think we’re not looking at this as a financial — a lease agreement.”
City Administrator Ken Pfeifer said the city budget includes anticipated revenue from the use of the tower, and an agreement with AISD might rule out other options.
Bailey also objected to the district having the round-the clock access to the tower, with Public Works Director Gordon Smith adding that TCEQ guidelines would then require an operator on site at all times.
In other business, the council unanimously:
• Set Saturday, May 18, as a date to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the incorporation of the City of Aledo, to be held at the Community Center from 10 a.m. to noon.
• Gave the go ahead to Phase 2 of the residential subdivision Parks of Aledo, approving a conceptual plan, development plan, community facilities agreement and final plat for a 29-acre tract at the southwest corner of Bailey-Ranch Road and FM 1187. The developer has eliminated three lots to create an acre of open space and now has 104 lots. Justin Welborn, of the Parks, said 16 lots have been sold in Phase 1 since mid-February, and 10 or 11 houses have begun construction.
• Approved a five-month agreement for inspection services for Parks of Aledo Phase 2 with Multatech Architects/Engineers for $36,720.
• Approved amendments to land use assumptions, water and wastewater capital improvement plans and water and wastewater impact fees. The council moved up sewer projects to serve the new 129-lot Brookhollow subdivision, planned for south FM 1187, and committed to share the cost of a lift station and some water and sewer lines. As a result, the council voted to raise impact fees for new residential construction by $545 per residential connection.
• Set public hearings for 7 p.m. April 22 and April 25 for input on a voluntary annexation to bring acreage into the city for Brookhollow.
• Upped the current city revenue and expenditure budgets by $99,000, with $67,000 going to the general fund. A notable expenditure increase is to make the city’s community event planner full-time. The revenue increase is due to sales taxes that have been 15 to 16 percent higher than a year ago.
• Approved an $11,000 contract with Western Enterprises for a community fireworks display at the June 7 First Friday event.
• Approved a race route around the Aledo High School campus for the Aledo AdvoCats “Run, Walk or Crawl” 5K race set for 8 a.m. April 27.
• Approved a bank depository agreement with First Financial Bank and named the bank as escrow agent for certificates of obligation related to waterworks and sewer. Formerly, the city used Town and Country Bank, now Aledo InterBank.
• Cancelled May 11 municipal elections, because there were no contested races. The cancellation will save the city $4,500.