By Lisa Young
Delta County Commissioners gave final approval for the construction of an emergency communications tower on Young’s Peak during the July 15 regular meeting.
The tower near Crawford will be constructed on an existing communication site at the summit of Young’s Peak (7,400 feet elevation). The project will include a 800Mhz digital trunked radio system, free-standing 60 feet tower, 12 x 20 communications building, one 1,000 gallon propane tank for an emergency generator, power pedestal and 6 foot security fence.
Emergency Manager Kris Stewart said the lease with the Bureau of Land Management was approved by the Delta Planning Commission earlier this year. Work on the project has already begun with preliminary road work, the entire project must be completed by Dec. 1, 2020.
The overall tower project estimated at half a million dollars is a collaborative effort between Delta County, State of Colorado Governor’s Office of Information Technology (OIT), Colorado Department of Transportation and the North Fork Ambulance Association. The state’s estimated contribution is estimated to be over $400,000.
“The state will provide the building, the county is providing the tower. We have secured $85,000 funding from Colorado Department of Transportation to pay for the tower and North Fork Ambulance Axillary, a non-profit out of Hotchkiss, has committed up to $85,000 also for construction costs associated with the tower for concrete and electrical work,” Stewart told commissioners.
Delta County will contribute roughly $35,000 for 1.3 miles of road improvements, the propane tank and the security fencing. Stewart said the county will also have to figure in staff time for administration work on the project.
The new digital two-way radio system will supplement the county’s current sites located at the Delta County Sheriff’s Office in Delta, Orchard City and Paonia. The present system provides service to roughly 1,148 square miles in Delta County and portions of Gunnison and Montrose counties.
Stewart said the tower in Crawford is not designed to support cell phone service.
“Some people confuse it, saying it’s a cell tower. It’s strictly public safety radios on the 800 megahertz spectrum. It’s a digital trunk radio system which is owned by the state of Colorado and used statewide. CDOT, Colorado State Patrol, Sheriff, Ambulance, Fire all of them use it to be able to respond... so, it’s critical for first responders,” he said.
Delta County’s Tank Hill tower near Orchard City and Steven’s Gulch tower (TV Hill) near Paonia, were recently taken offline for maintenance. Stewart said first responders in the North Fork Valley lose critical communications when Steven’s Gulch tower is down forcing them to rely on cell phones or older VHF radios. The Young’s Peak tower will improve communications in the North Fork area and extend radio coverage to 16 different public safety agencies in the region.
Stewart said emergency radio communication will be critical during the construction planned for US Highway 50 near Blue Mesa. The project slated to start April 2021 will reroute traffic from US Highway 50 to CO Highway 92 over Black Mesa and through Crawford, Hotchkiss and Delta. Emergency management and local public safety agencies in the construction area have expressed concerns about negative impacts on vital resources. The Young’s Peak communication tower will be a welcomed assist to the entire region.
Stewart said Crawford State Park where radio communications are spotty due to the deep canyons and valleys will also benefit from the project. At times, he said EMS and the sheriff’s office have had to rely on landline phones for emergency communications.
“It is a critical system. It’s something that we’ve been very hopeful for the 10 years that I’ve been involved in EMS and law enforcement, because radio coverage up in the North Fork and Crawford area has been so poor. Having a tower up there will fill in the void,” said Stewart.
Access to the new tower site will be via Young’s Peak trail beginning at Crawford Fire Department at Needle Rock Road. According to county documents, Mountain Radio Systems will complete the tower within 14 days after the road work and site preparation is completed. County crews expect to take up to two months for the completion of the building, tower wiring and additional road work including a site inspection by BLM.