A representative of the MARCS radio service met with Trumbull County and local officials on Dec. 8 to get the ball rolling on the construction of a new radio tower in Brookfield that officials believe will eliminate radio communication “dead spots” in the county.

The Multi-Agency Radio Communication System was created to serve Ohio agencies, such as the Ohio Highway Patrol, but officials quickly realized it could benefit many more agencies. Currently, there are 3,100 federal, state, county and local agencies on the MARCS system, said Dick Miller, MARCS field operations manager.

Most of Trumbull County’s fire departments went to MARCS in 2020, when they banded together for a state grant. Brookfield Police Department is not on the MARCS system, although Brookfield Trustee Dan Suttles said he wants the police on MARCS eventually.

There are areas on the east side of Trumbull County where the MARCS signal does not reach, including Yankee Run Road and southern Masury in Brookfield, and parts of Hubbard city and township and Fowler. That means that first-responders on MARCS cannot communicate with each other or Trumbull County 911 via radio, and have to rely on Brookfield police’s VHF radios or cellphones for communication. 

It has been determined that placing a MARCS tower on the east side of Route 7, on county-owned property that used to house the county home, will eliminate those dead spots.

“This is gonna blanket the entire Trumbull County area,” said Doug Johnson, Fowler fire captain, who has been working on the problem for about two years.

promoMiller said the state will cover half of the cost to erect the tower, and county officials said they want to use federal American Rescue Plan Act funds for the county’s share.

Based on current estimates, it will take $1.7 million to do all the design, administrative and site work, ordering and installation and construction for the 400-foot tower and its bomb-proof control house.

The county and state need to reach a memorandum of understanding delineating each side’s obligations, Miller said.

“I don’t want an answer today,” he said Dec. 8. “I want to start the conversation.”

Miller said he could not give a firm estimate as to how long the process will take to bring the tower online due to supply-chain and delivery issues. But, he did not argue with the point that, if all goes well, it could be up in 2023.

“We have to start as quickly as we can,” said outgoing county Commissioner Frank Fuda, who attended the meeting with Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa. “We’ve been under this situation where they don’t have communication. It’s been way too long.”

“The money is one thing, but the lives are the main thing,” Fuda said. “You’re talking about people’s lives here.”

County officials asked Miller to have the state Attorney General’s Office, which represents MARCS, draw up a draft MOU.