WEATHERFORD — Parker County commissioners Monday took no action on approving an upgrade to radio systems and the addition of a sixth radio tower.

The funds would have come from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, of which the county was allocated a little more than $27.7 million in COVID-19 relief dollars. The cost of the radio system project is about $7.8 million, Parker County Emergency Management Coordinator and Fire Marshal Sean Hughes said.

The new radios would benefit county officials, including the Parker County Sheriff’s Office and emergency services districts. Sheriff Russ Authier confirmed that most of the radios are past their end of life.

Precinct 3 Commissioner Larry Walden said he was concerned there had been no previous formal talks, though the county was being asked Monday to spend a good portion of the ARPA funds.

He made a motion for a committee to be established and appointed by the court, to evaluate and recommend expenditures of the funds.

“We need to get the word out that we’re taking proposals for the spending of this funding to other programs that may need it,” he said.

Hughes said the $7.8 million would include upgrades to the existing five radio towers, and construction of a sixth 250-foot tower to be located in Brock.

“The new tower and upgrade would greatly enhance the reliability of the system, though there would still be some dead spots, but not as many,” he said, adding that they had until the end of the year before Motorola would be increasing its pricing.

Precinct 1 Commissioner George Conley said he’d rather go ahead and approve the amount now, “instead of kicking it down the road.”

Walden, however, said he wanted more information, such as a breakdown of what all would be included in that cost, before making a decision.

“I don’t see an urgency today to rush through,” Precinct 4 Commissioner Steve Dugan echoed. “And hopefully this discussion has brought some awareness from other programs.”

The ARPA funds must be obligated by 2024, and counties have until 2026 to complete the projects, County Auditor Briana Fowler said.

In other business Monday, commissioners:

• Recognized a proclamation to make Nov. 22 John Forrest Day in honor of the county attorney who was recently named Citizen of the Year by the Weatherford Chamber of Commerce.

“We would not be doing our duty if we didn’t recognize the accomplishments and recognition that John Forrest has received,” Walden said.

Forrest has been with the county since 2001, and serves on various boards and with organizations.

“This is one of the best courts I’ve been on, and there are some great role models that I’ve had growing up,” he said. “There’s alot of growth and it’s good growth. I’m proud to be able to come back here and raise my kids here.”

• Approved a modification to the sheriff’s office regarding uniforms for new hires. Employees do receive a clothing allowance of $500, but Fowler said uniforms were also being purchased through AP/payroll.

Authier said the department has historically paid for a couple pairs of pants and two short-sleeved shirts, as part of recruiting for new hires, and added that with prices projected to increase, it would be difficult to determine a precise dollar amount.

A motion was made, and approved, to modify the policy to an amount up to $300 paid to AP for each new hire, making the total a maximum of $800.

• Heard from Texas Neighborhood Services Executive Director Brad Manning on how the organization has helped residents in utility assistance and rental assistance during COVID.

More than $830,000 in federal dollars was spent in Parker County in 2020, compared to $345,000 the previous year. With two months still to go in this year, Manning said they’ve jumped up to $1.4 million spent on 991 households and 2,220 individuals served.

• Approved a contact with University of North Texas Health Science Center for disposition of human remains to go toward medical research if eligible.

If that person is under 17 or if their family chooses not to go forward, there would be a cremation cost of $300 per person.

The county also has a contract with White’s Funeral Home for disposition by cremation at a cost of $750 each.

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