Bluebonnet, LCRA award $11,349 grant to Lee County Amateur Radio Emergency Services
Grant expands backup system for Lee County Amateur Radio Emergency Services

Standing, from left, are: Denice Harlan, Giddings Area Chamber of Commerce president; Michael York, Lee County justice of the peace, Precinct 2; Lacey Hannes, Lexington code compliance officer; Tina Biehle, Lexington city administrator; James Lawrence, LeeCARES member; Matthew L. “Matt” Arthur, LCRA Board member; Margaret D. "Meg" Voelter, LCRA Board member; Alan Turner, county commissioner, Precinct 3; Marida Favia del Core Borromeo, LeeCARES emergency coordinator; Russell Jurk, Bluebonnet director; Paul E. Fischer, Lee County judge; Mark Matthijetz, county commissioner, Precinct 1; Mark Johnson, Bluebonnet community representative, Giddings area; Steven Knobloch, county commissioner, Precinct 4; Richard Wagner, county commissioner, Precinct 2; and Casey Goetz, Lee County sheriff. Seated, from left, are: Jeff Bullard, Julia Allison, Ruben Fuentes, Tim Lee and Daniel Shirley, LeeCARES members; and Kate Ramzinski, LCRA Regional Affairs representative

Lee County Amateur Radio Emergency Services will purchase new radio communications equipment to strengthen Lee County’s response during emergencies, thanks to an $11,349 grant from Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative and the Lower Colorado River Authority.

The Community Development Partnership Program grant, along with $3,500 in matching funds from the recipient, will allow the group to expand its geographic reach and resiliency through the purchase of new radios, antennas and other electronic equipment.

The volunteer organization, founded in 2019, serves as the Lee County Emergency Operation Center’s official backup for communications during events such as tornadoes, hurricanes or cyberattacks. In the event official channels go down, the group will assist in connecting first responders with members of the community, as well as state and federal support networks.

“Imagine a world without phones, without internet, and you are half an hour from any city,” said Marida Favia del Core Borromeo, LeeCARES emergency coordinator and founder. “Maybe there are trees down so you cannot drive through the road. What do you do? We can shadow a responder, and they can say ‘call in, I need XYZ’ and we can call it in.”

The EOC building itself offers an ideal vantage point for the group to communicate with the State Operations Center and other counties.

“We started asking for grants to equip the EOC so that if something happens, we can have a presence there with a stationary radio and antennas,” Borromeo said. “We are increasing our vertical antenna, and we would like to put up a directional antenna. Redundancy is the name of the game. If one doesn’t work, hopefully the other does.”

The organization predominately relies on the personal equipment of its 18 volunteer members, including local ranchers and farmers, first responders and people in the information technology and oil industries. “We all have different backgrounds,” Borromeo said. “Everybody brings to the table something different.”

She emphasized, though, members have a shared mission. “It is all people who are very much in love with Lee County, who really care about taking care of their neighbors. All we have in our hearts is Lee County’s well-being.”

The community grant is one of six grants being awarded by Bluebonnet and the LCRA through LCRA’s Community Development Partnership Program, which helps volunteer fire departments, local governments, emergency responders and nonprofit organizations fund capital improvement projects in LCRA’s wholesale electric, water and transmission service areas. The program is part of LCRA’s effort to give back to the communities it serves. Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative is one of LCRA’s wholesale electric customers and is a partner in the grant program.

Applications for the next round of grants will be accepted in July. More information is available here.