Court hears alert system could save time, money
by Sarah Taylor
Oct 27, 2010 | 619 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
At the Bee County commissioners’ meeting Monday morning, city and county emergency management coordinator David Morgan presented his plan for a better emergency notification system.

The plan, which had already been presented to the city of Beeville, includes purchasing a web-based program to notify people quickly in case of an emergency via the phone, fax, e-mail or text message.

Morgan said that the current emergency warning system in place is a siren in the downtown area. But not everyone in the city can hear the siren and most people have no idea what the siren signals mean.

Morgan said the city has already committed the funds, whether the county does or not. However, it would be advantageous for the two entities to share the system.

“I would have to duplicate messages if there were two separate systems,” Morgan said.

Sharing the system also would enable both groups to save money.

Morgan said all of the addresses in the city and county already in the 911 system would be automatically included. He did say, however, that there is one drawback to this approach.

“Society is moving away from home telephones,” Morgan said.

He explained that people not in the 911 system wouldn’t get the messages unless they used the fax or e-mail options. There is a way around this.

“We could have a public portal where people can put in their information,” Morgan said. “That would take publicizing.”

Web-based notification systems have other helpful features as well. If only one area of the county needed to be informed of an emergency, such as a fire, Morgan could draw a box around addresses in that area on his computer screen to only notify those residents.

Also, he could find out who did and didn’t respond to the emergency messages. This would enable Morgan to send someone to check on those who did not respond.

For unlimited use of one of these programs, Morgan said the city and county together could expect to pay from $15,000 to $20,000 annually, depending on which provider is chosen and how it is set up. An emergency-only system would be less expensive.

The county made no decisions on a system at Monday’s meeting.

Implementing any system such as this would require a budget amendment, as it was not planned for in the current budget.

Commissioner Carlos Salazar, Jr. said that with the recent repairs to the Bee County Expo Center and upcoming courtroom acoustics updates, the budget is not allowing for many more amendments.

“It’s gotten worse,” Salazar said.

In other business, the commissioners voted to:

• approve a two-year rural law enforcement assistance grant for an interdiction officer, including vehicle and equipment

• purchase a new computer for the sheriff’s department chief deputy using the technology fund

• approve the sheriff’s department equipping and purchasing a replacement vehicle

• approve advertising for professional services to administer a grant contact for a housing rehabilitation program

• make November 2010 Home Care and Hospice Month in Bee County

• make November 2010 Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month in Bee County

• make Oct. 30 “Weatherization Day,

which involved assisting low-income families with lowering energy costs
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