Banks District Volunteer Fire Department Chief John Roby
Banks District Volunteer Fire Department Chief John Roby

County commission, fire department work together to improve radio communication in Southern Upshur

BUCKHANNON – The Upshur County Commission approved a request from the Banks District Volunteer Fire Department to fund the moving of their repeater to the Cleveland Mountain tower owned by the state.

During the June 18 Upshur County Commission meeting, Banks District Volunteer Fire Department Chief John Roby spoke to commissioners about communications in the southern part of the county and how they could be improved by moving the repeater.

“I started this project to improve our communications, because towards Gaines or Kanawha Head, it’s not very good,” Roby said. “My biggest mistake when we started this was that I thought we could take care of the funding, but COVID came along and it’s just hurt us.”

He said the volunteer department currently does not have the money required to finish the project, so he approached the commission with two different plans to fund the project.

“I am proposing two plans, because I know Cleveland [Mountain] is where we need to be according to everyone we have talked to,” Roby said. “We have a repeater, we have the radios, we have everything except for putting [the equipment] on Cleveland Mountain, and as you can see that is pretty costly.”

Roby requested that the county either provide funding to help the fire department finish the project, or the fire department could turn over all their equipment to the county, and the county could then finish it.

“I don’t want to just help the fire departments,” Roby said. “EMS comes over and has communication problems, law enforcement has communication problems. Just because it says ‘Banks District’ on it doesn’t make a difference to me, anybody in law enforcement can use it, that’s what it’s for. We just want to improve communications in the southern part of the county.”

Upshur Comm Center Director Doyle Cutright agreed that communication in parts of the southern end of the county should be addressed.

“Is there a problem with communications on the southern end of the county?” Cutright asked. “Yeah. There’s no way to get 100% coverage — there’s an issue with communication in the northern part of the county and the eastern part of the county, but I would venture to say out in the Gaines area and the Selbyville area, that is probably the number one or two area in the county that needs to be addressed.”

Douglas Cutlip, owner of DC Computers, quoted the cost of the project at $12,539.48 but said that price is the worst-case scenario and it will most likely not cost that much.

“I heard a comment about the dispatchers, saying, ‘They aren’t even answering the radio,’” Roby said. “How would you like to sit there with that static in your ear for 12-hour shifts? Those girls down there are probably going nuts, and my guys have to turn their radios down.”

Commissioner Sam Nolte made the motion to move forward with the project and have the bills sent to the county commission for them to pay up to the quoted amount. Commissioner Kristie Tenney seconded the motion, which passed. The commission also agreed to keep the license in Bank District’s name.

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