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Radio tower proposal questioned

BUCKEYE LAKE – Buckeye Lake Village Council Finance Committee members questioned a proposal for the village to partner with Licking County and the Multi-Agency Radio Communications Service, or MARCS, to install a 180 feet tall MARCS radio tower on village property. The project would include a 10 feet by 20 feet building surrounded by a 75 feet by 75 feet fence near the water tower. The village would need to invest $50,000 to begin the project.

Buckeye Lake Fire Department Captain Dave Ruton, who attended Monday night’s committee meeting with Licking County Emergency Management Agency Director Sean Grady, said the village would eventually earn back the $50,000 investment through credits from the MARCS system billing; the village would not pay for MARCS service until it’s used up $50,000 worth of billing (or another negotiated amount), which could take roughly 17 years.

Ruton said the tower would be important for the village because the closest MARCS towers are in Linnville and Pataskala. He said some coverage is very limited near Buckeye Lake. “It’s quite a stretch to get here,” Ruton said.

Grady said the county’s holes in MARCS radio coverage are Buckeye Lake and Utica.

Ruton said the proposed equipment is refurbished and a new MARCS tower would cost roughly $400,000. “We’re letting them use the land,” he said.

Council member Doug Poorman asked what the village’s responsibility would be if and when the equipment becomes obsolete.

Grady said the MARCS services take care of it.

“It’s their responsibility at that point,” Ruton said.

“We don’t know what the payback is,” committee member Peggy Wells said. She said she would rather the village have free MARCS service for allowing the company to use Buckeye Lake Village property. Wells said she would like to see a master development plan so everyone would know how the village intends to use the open land near the water tower. There has been some discussion about moving the village offices and fire department there, but nothing is for certain.

Ruton said Licking County would give its MARCS radio credits to the village. The village could either provide the $50,000 from its general fund or acquire a zero-interest loan for the amount.

Council President Kitty Zwissler asked why other communities weren’t contacted to join the project.

Grady said Millersport is not interested because Fairfield County is not part of the MARCS radio network.

Zwissler agreed MARCS radio service is necessary, but why is Buckeye Lake being asked to contribute $50,000?

Grady said the equipment is only available for a limited time at $50,000. “The equipment is first come, first serve,” he said. Grady said the village has roughly 60 days to provide a proposal to the MARCS services.

Wells said she isn’t opposed to the tower, but didn’t want to give up the village property to accommodate it. “I’m not in favor of it,” she said. Wells said the return on the investment takes too long, and it would be different if there were no up front costs for the village. Wells doesn’t like giving up the land and paying an up front cost.

Zwissler wondered if Hebron would be willing to participate.

Committee members want some written material about the proposal.

Grady said the offer may not be available for long. “We’ve only just heard about this,” Wells responded.

Committee chair Tom Wolfe agreed with Wells. “It is a lot to ask to give up land, put up money, and a 17-year return,” he said. “I’m not sold yet.”

Committee members agreed to continue discussion during their next meeting, March 21.

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