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County looking for solutions to tower problem

PRINCETON – The Bureau County Board continues to look at what can be done to protect the county jail’s communication tower from lightning strikes.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the county board voted unanimously to hire E & S Grounding Solutions of California to do a field work study on the grounding grid system at the base of the tower, located directly behind the county jail. The California company will complete testing of the grounding grid, write an interpretation of the test results, and complete a site work plan. The cost to the county for the work is $9,650, which includes travel expenses.

On Thursday, Buildings and Grounds Committee Chairman Kristi Warren said the tower has been hit by lightning three times in recent years, with the last time, in April, causing the most extensive damage.

As reported earlier in the Bureau County Republican, the April 10 lightning strike at the jail tower took out the sheriff’s department’s communication radios, Internet system, computer system, telephone system and the control panel for all the doors for the entire jail system. At that time, Sheriff John Thompson said the jail’s radio communication was quickly diverted to Spring Valley until things could be restored at the jail.

On Thursday, Warren said the county has recently added some lightning protection and surge protection features to the tower, as part of the county’s recent radio system upgrade project, but there seems to be some issue at the base of the tower with its grounding grid.

Once E & S Grounding Solutions completes its work, hopefully within the next few weeks, then the county board can use the company’s recommendation and site work plan if the county board decides to go out for bids on an upgrade project for the grounding grid, Warren said.

As far as the on-going radio system upgrade for the county, Warren said new repeaters have been installed in the squad cars and the portable radios for the jail have been delivered and are in the process of being programmed. The vehicle antennas are in the process of being installed and will then be programmed.

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