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Answers to your questions:
2. YES. Ground rods are there for safety to control AC/DC service faults and to direct lightning energy to terra firma. The best installation is 3-4, 8 foot long copper coated steel ground rods driven below the surface of the earth approx. 12 feet apart, all connected by the thickest or heaviest conductor possible (copper ground strap is best due to less inductance than wire.)
3. Ground radials, either elevated above ground or below the surface, work more uniformly if they cover 360 degrees around the antenna. However, understanding the ground potential of the radials is what the vertical antenna works against, any ground radials 5% longer than the actual length of the antenna is sufficient to raise the radiation efficiency of the antenna. The ground radials reduce ground losses in the antenna system.
4. The proper measurement, to determine if an antenna system is working at its design maximum, is to measure the feedpoint amperage (current) and tune the system for maximum. If you tune the feedpoint for maximum voltage, the high impedance node of the antenna would be at the wrong spot. Maximizing feedpoint current with maximum legal transmitter output power should produce maximum field strength away from the “near field” of the antenna.
A current copy of the ARRL Antenna Handbook would be a very good $35.00 investment for your station.