published Monday, May 5th, 2014

Lightning sizzles Kimball City Hall electronics

KIMBALL, Tenn. — A lightning strike burned up equipment at Kimball City Hall and the nearby police station last month.

Now officials are trying to decide what needs to be replaced.

Mayor David Jackson said an April 4 storm delivered just one lightning strike in the area.

"And it hit us," he said.

The strike fried computers, phones and a copier at City Hall.

"It burned the cables up going into the computers," Jackson said. "We lost a lot of stuff that day."

Next door in the police station, the lightning destroyed more computers, a television and a high-priced radio base system.

Jackson said one officer was in the police station when the bolt hit. Sgt. Timothy Allison reported seeing a "blue flash" inside the building, Jackson said.

Alderman Jerry Don Case said the tower next to the police station has been hit by lightning several times, but officials aren't sure if that's what was struck in this case.

The damage is estimated at $25,000 and is covered by insurance.

That estimate could soar to nearly $45,000, however, if city leaders decide to completely replace the police department's radio base station.

Jackson said he's not sure the city should spend $19,000 in insurance money to replace that equipment when officers have walkie-talkies and cellphones now.

"I'm not really sure we need that much of a radio over there anymore," he said.

A much cheaper device, like the one Kimball's fire department uses, could replace the older model and still work efficiently, Jackson said.

Initially, Case said he was hesitant to do that because he'd heard of radio signal problems with the cheaper models in spots along Battle Creek Road and inside Walmart at the Kimball Crossing shopping center.

Officer Chip Wampler said he hasn't had any problems getting a signal on Battle Creek Road, but receiving inside Walmart has always been problem.

"You're not going to get anything that I have found that's going to work inside Walmart," he said. "There's certain areas, if you stay close to the front, that you can get a signal out."

When an officer enters that store, he radios a special code to let dispatchers know they may have to use a cellphone to reach him.

Since the problem at Walmart existed before the radio equipment was damaged, Case agreed there might not be any reason to buy another costly base system.

"If it was a safety issue, I'd be the first one to say, 'Let's get it done,' but I don't think that will be an issue like it used to be," Jackson said.

Alderman Mark Payne said he doesn't think the Kimball Board of Mayor and Aldermen has enough information to make a good decision yet.

City leaders said there is no need to rush into a decision. The board plans to address the issue again at June 5 meeting.

Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at ryanlewis34@gmail.com.

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