Tower used by local law enforcements to communicate

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Jim Wells County Correspondent

The joint communications tower located at the Jim Wells County fairgrounds, which was damaged with an ax last month, could cost law enforcement departments in the area about $8,000 to repair, Police Chief Danny Bueno said.

The tower, which helps to coordinate communications between the sheriff's department, Alice Police Department, Orange Grove Police Department and Premont Police Department is still functional, although the base of the structure suffered some damage from a sharp instrument, Bueno said.

"We were having some problems with the tower, but it wasn't until last month that we noticed the damage. I will be meeting with the police chiefs and the sheriff to discuss the situation," Bueno said. "The repairs will be a joint effort, because all agencies in the area utilize it. We'll have to repair at least eight feet of it. It will be costly, but it has to be done. The funding will probably come from the individual departments, that is what our discussions will be about this week."

Bueno said that since it is an open field somebody could have walked in and axed the structure or used some type of sharp object. He said it appeared that somebody hit it with an ax.

An official report of city property damage will be filed with the department. "If we catch someone in connection to this, we will prosecute the case. Messing with the radio towers, you're talking about $8,000 worth of damage. We should be getting a code this week, regarding how much it is going to cost. HM King Construction, out of Corpus Christi, will be supplying the information," Bueno said.

County Judge L. Arnoldo Saenz said it was his understanding that the tower is repairable.

"I've been told that the tower can be fixed by raising the tower, replacing the damaged section, and then lowering it back down," Saenz said.

Sheriff Oscar Lopez said he wasn't sure how much the damage was going to cost each entity, but said an estimate is being put together. As part of a repeater project, the county is working in conjunction with Orange Grove and Premont; and Lopez said his department inspected the fairground's tower as a possible addition to the project.

Lopez said that was when his department noticed the tower damage.

"Depending on the estimate, we'll probably have to go before the commissioner's court to get funding for the repairs to the tower. APD and the other departments will probably have to do the same thing with their city councils to get the tower fixed. We won't know how much it will cost or how long the repairs will take until we get the estimate," Lopez said.