PIctured: MAURICIO JULIAN CUELLAR JR. The communication tower, located at the Jim Wells County Fairgrounds, may be repaired or possibly replaced this year to bring it back into compliance.

Tower was damaged by maintenance workers last year

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Alice Echo-News Journal

Jim Wells County officials are awaiting word on two different solutions to the county's communication tower problem. The 300-foot tower, located at the Jim Wells County Fairgrounds, was damaged sometime early last year, during a clean up effort at the fairgrounds. The damage was not discovered until an annual maintenance check of the tower last year.

During a meeting last December, two options were proposed to tackle the tower issue, including a possible patch for the tower and a possible donated tower from the border patrol sector. County Judge L. Arnoldo Saenz said both proposals are currently being considered, and are more cost effective than purchasing a new tower.

The tower is utilized by multiple law enforcement agencies for their day-to-day communications.

The patch option, originated from Alice City Manager Albert Uresti, includes hiring a company to use a “patch” to repair the damage to the tower and bring it back into compliance, Saenz said.

City officials are working with engineers to investigate the feasibility of the patchwork.

One question brought up in the meeting was whether the patch would be able to secure the tower with the additional weight of a repeater and three more antennas on the top of the tower, which were scheduled to be added in last year. City officials are currently researching that option.

Assistant City Manager Hector Hinojosa said this week that the city is waiting on the county's response to the options. Uresti could not be reached for comment.

Saenz said that border patrol officials offered a tower that is not being used by the agency. The 400-foot tower is free standing, Saenz said. The current 300-foot tower is secured with guylines. Saenz said the border patrol officials would have to follow protocol when it comes to securing the tower for the county, so that option is not definite yet.

If the bigger tower is donated, the cost of transporting the tower and erecting it on site would have to be paid by the county, Saenz said. There is also the question of licensing with that option, he said. It is unclear as yet that if the county receives the 400-foot tower, whether they need to get a new license to operate the tower, or would they be able to keep their current license and utilize the 400-foot tower at its original height. These are questions Saenz said the county is looking into should the border patrol tower become available.

County and city officials will meet again late this month or early February to discuss the two options.