County approves hire of Link back to Sheriff’s Department, approves vehicle purchases and tower giveaway

by Kate Shunney

Morgan County officials approved the hire of a former deputy back into the Sheriff’s Department and okayed the purchase of two new patrol vehicles for the department last week.

During the June 1 County Commission meeting, Sheriff K.C. Bohrer asked commissioners to okay hiring Tony Link as a full-time deputy with his department, effective July 1. Link previously was Chief Deputy of the Sheriff’s Department, had resigned and then worked part-time as a special deputy. Link is the Police Chief for the Berkeley Springs Police Department. Link will come into the department with a salary of $42,000 plus longevity pay for his previous years of service, said the sheriff.

Bohrer also sought approval to hire a part-time court security officer for the courthouse.

In other police business, Bohrer asked for funds to buy two Ford Interceptors for his department. The sheriff said because of the delays in getting new vehicles, he already ordered three of the Fords from a dealership in Ohio.

Commissioners agreed to pay for two of the vehicles, at a cost of $45,058 each, out of carryover funds.

In other public safety matters, commissioners approved a memorandum of understanding with Morgan County volunteer fire companies to support their hose and ladder testing needs.

Commissioners also signed a memorandum of understanding with the Morgan County Emergency Communications Network, a local independent ham radio group, to provide emergency communications support to the county in a disaster.

John Petersen, representing the group, asked county officials to give the network free access to the county’s main emergency communications tower on Cacapon Mountain to maintain their radio equipment.

Petersen then asked the commissioners to allow the group to use an abandoned tower site near that Cacapon Mountain tower as their own independent radio location. County officials believe the tower was built in 1974 by the Sheriff’s Department and sits on land owned by the state.

The Emergency Communications Network wants to take possession of the tower, move their repeater off the main tower and operate it separately in case something happens to the main tower.

“We have a strategic plan to build out multiple layers of redundancy,” said Petersen. “If we can move over to the other tower, we’d be essentially independent.”

Commissioner Joel Tuttle asked repeatedly if the network had already gotten an agreement from the State Parks or DNR or state to continue to use the land the tower stands on.

Petersen said they had not yet, but didn’t believe that would be an issue.

The old tower is 80 feet tall. The county’s main emergency tower is 200 feet tall. Petersen said it was unlikely that internet providers would want to use the shorter tower.

County officials voted 3-0 to transfer ownership of the tower to the Morgan County Emergency Communications Network. It’s the second unused tower they have given the group.