Vidor names new radio tower in honor of officer

Vidor names new radio tower in honor of officer

Representatives of the City of Vidor surprised Vidor police Sgt. Aleta Cappen at the Vidor City Council meeting Feb. 23 when they honored her by naming the city’s new radio tower after the officer, who worked diligently to secure grants for the project.

City Manager Mike Kunst said they got Cappen to attend the meeting but didn’t tell her she would be recognized at the assembly.

Kunst said the council performed some “ninja moves” to get Cappen there without arising suspicion.

“I told her we required her presence to answer some questions about one of the grants for which she had applied,” Kunst revealed.

Criminal Justice and Homeland Security Division at the South East Texas Regional Planning Commission Director Sue Landry said Cappen Tower is a 450-foot communications tower designed and strategically placed at the City of Vidor Police Department to close interoperable communications gaps for public safety entities along the Sabine Neches Waterway, Bridge City, and the western most part of Orange County including Vidor.

“Law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services had experienced communications coverage gaps in these areas for years,” Landry explained. “In 2014, the tower was proposed as the most cost effective solution.

“Sgt. Aleta Cappen, who had served on the Regional Interoperable Communications Committee since its inception in 2005, became an ambassador for and advocate to make the tower a reality.”

Landry said Cappen approached the Orange County Emergency Management Coordinator and brought a group of stakeholders together to discuss the feasibility of the project.

“All agreed that it was a high priority,” she recalled. “Sgt. Cappen volunteered to write the grant and perform all of the logistical footwork that goes into a $1.6 million project.”

Landry described Cappen as “the primary grant writer for the 2015 Port Security Grant,” the grant that funded 75 percent of the tower cost. The remaining 25 percent was provided by the Texas Department of Public Safety (communications equipment) and SETRPC 911 Emergency Communications Network (microwave tower project consolidated with the City of Vidor tower at around $180,000).” 

“Writing and obtaining a Port Security Grant is not an easy undertaking,” said Landry, “and Sgt. Cappen had to coordinate with a myriad of agencies to see it through to completion. The project was funded, and shortly thereafter, the Orange County Emergency Management Coordinator abruptly became unavailable. Sgt. Cappen jumped in and took the lead with Orange County’s complete approval.”

After that, Cappen worked through “bottlenecks” with the Environmental and Historic Preservation (EHP) study, which can take months to complete, according to Landry. She oversaw the acquisition of equipment, submitted reports to keep Orange County in compliance and was the local jurisdiction’s “boots on the ground” project manager.

“Without Sgt. Cappen’s focused and determined leadership, the project would have succumbed to any number of unforeseen circumstances,” said Landry. “It is thanks to Sgt. Cappen that the Sabine Neches Waterway, Orange County, City of Bridge City, City of Vidor and all points in between will be safer because of the tower that enables clear communication between all public safety entities in the Southeast Texas region.”

At the meeting Cappen, thanked the council for the honor and received a plaque from the city for her hard work and dedication.