Brown County Commissioners Court members unanimously agreed Monday to join with the City of Brownwood in hiring Ira Wiesenfeld and Associates Consulting Engineers to evaluate the communications system used by the dispatch center and first responders.

Consultants told commissioners court members the cost breakdown is a total of $28,000 for the county — $24,000 for the sheriff’s office and $4,000 for volunteer fire departments. The cost to the City of Brownwood is $23,000, and if the cities of Early and Bangs agree to participate, the cost to those cities is $2,000 each, the consultants told commissioners.

The consultants’ proposed tasks include identifying all sites, GPS locations, antenna elevations and researching FCC licenses; analyzing existing infrastructure; investigating new system options and identifying additional sites as needed; meeting with county and city officials to determine an action plan and writing a request for proposals; and providing technical assistance to determine if submitted bids meet specifications and if vendors can provide the support to complete the project.

Sheriff Vance Hill said the consultants have “looked at a lot of our equipment. He’s pointed out some issues that we’re having. We are in compliance with the federal government on our licensing so we don’t have any issues there.

“I’ve worked for Brown County since 1994 and this has always been an issue, whether it’s firefighters or deputy sheriffs out in the county needing help and can’t communicate. I feel very strongly that he could help us with that.”

The consultants do not sell radio equipment, and installing new equipment would mean an additional cost, commissioners were told.

“It’s going to be my recommendation to the court that we do proceed with this,” Hill said. “I realize the money’s not budgeted but I feel like, for officer safety and firemen’s safety, we should get a line item and get this expenditure done.”

Brown County Judge Paul Lilly said, “I’m an extreme fiscal conservative and I didn’t come to office to spend un-budgeted money and spend frivolously.”

Lilly said although the expense is not budgeted, the county has more than $7 million in reserve and “we can afford this. I don’t like spending money but I have the absolute unwavering faith in our sheriff, and if he tells me this is something he recommends, that’s really all I need to hear.

“It’s been going on long enough. This is a public safety matter. Lives are at stake. It needs to be addressed. We’ve put it off long enough.” 

Brownwood City Council members agreed in May to hire the consultants.