By Ben Kleppinger
10:39 AM EST, November 28, 2012
STANFORD — Lincoln County magistrates are considering paying $12,000 for an emergency alert system that could notify residents by phone calls, emails and text messages.
Emergency Management Director Donnie Gilliam told the Lincoln County Fiscal Court Tuesday that Houston-based emergency communications company DeltAlert has offered to provide three years of emergency notification service for its two-year price of $12,000.
The price tag is much cheaper than previous estimates for emergency notification service, which had been as much as $17,000 per year.
Gilliam said he's not sure if it will be allowed, but it might be possible to pay for DeltAlert's services with insurance money that was paid out to Lincoln Emergency Management after lightning damaged two of its emergency alert sirens.
"The sirens are like big lightning rods. Every time we have a big storm, we lose one," Gilliam said.
Instead of continuing to repair the siren system, which Gilliam said is inefficient and doesn't reach enough county residents, the county could potentially use the insurance money to put the DeltAlert notification system in place instead.
County Attorney Daryl Day said it doesn't make any sense to him to keep maintaining the siren system.
"None of us would want to send our mail out on the Pony Express. That's basically what we're doing now (with the sirens)," he said. "It's hit-and-miss technology."
Magistrate David Faulkner said he would support paying for the DeltAlert system if the insurance money can be used, but if the money would have to come out of the general fund, "we may have to look at it differently."
Gilliam said making the DeltAlert system as effective as possible will require work getting the word out to the county's residents and getting everyone signed up to receive alerts on their preferred devices.
If the county does opt for the DeltAlert service, Gilliam said it’s unlikely it will choose to renew after the three years are up because by that time, “smartphone technology will rule the day” and notification systems will be old tech, just like the siren system is now.
Day said he expects there won't be any problems with using the insurance money for costs other than repairing the damaged sirens, but magistrates tabled the issue until the legality could be determined for sure.
Radio upgrade approved
In other emergency management business, the fiscal court approved a $37,000 plan for a digital radio upgrade for county first responders.
Because of a federal mandate from the Federal Communications Commission, radio communications must change over to digital or switch to a "narrow-band" frequency by Jan. 1.
While narrow-banding would be the cheaper option — a few thousand dollars at most — it could decrease radio coverage and make cross-county communication more difficult.
Magistrates agreed at a special meeting earlier this month that opting for the more expensive digital option was necessary to protect first-responders' safety.
The digital-upgrade plan presented by Gilliam Tuesday includes 24 vehicle radio units, 27 handheld radio units and one digital repeater that Gilliam said should provide good coverage across the county.
The radios will be used by the sheriff's office, three constables, emergency management staff, coroner staff and the Bluegrass 911 call center.
Rebates available on the new digital radios mean the fiscal court could recoup as much as $2,520 of the approximately $37,000 cost.