County to offer text message alert system
Saturday, November 10, 2012 4:00 AM
Jefferson County will implement a new email and text message alert system for severe weather and emergency notifications.
The system, Nixle Community Information Service, is a web-based program that allows residents to subscribe to emergency notifications for multiple areas.
"Anything that deals with an emergency notification for the community, we can do," said Emergency Management Director Dave Bell.
Bell received approval for the system from the Board of County Commissioners on Friday morning. He said the program will be launched Nov. 21, one day before winter officially begins. Bell or a local dispatch supervisor will handle the alerts.
If the public responds well to the system, Bell said, the services can be expanded.
"I think they will, because I haven't even put it online yet, and I already have 185 people sitting there waiting," Bell told the commissioners.
Residents can register on the website at www.nixle.com, and they can receive notifications for several locations. The Local Emergency Planning Committee provided the $1,800 needed to start the service.
Also at the meeting Friday, resident Jean Padgett asked the commissioners to make it unlawful to ride a 4-wheeler on county roadways.
She told the commissioners 4-wheeler riders have created an "ongoing problem" near her home on East Geyman Hill Road. She said the riders have taken the mufflers off their vehicles and are disrupting the residents at all hours.
After they complained to the authorities, she said, her family has received threats from the riders via Facebook.
"I'm at my wit's-end," said Padgett, who has lived at the location for 10 years. "We've done everything we can do within the law."
Sheriff John Wallace attested to the problem, adding that deputies have written citations and even impounded a few vehicles. He added that similar problems exist in the Rykers' Ridge and Deputy areas.
"She has filed several complaints," he said. "And we found most to be valid."
The commissioners said they sympathized with the problem, but they would be hesitant to create a ban for 4-wheelers on the roadway.
"This is an example of a few ruining it for everyone," Commissioner Tom Pietrykowski said.
Counties reserve the right to ban or allow the vehicles on their roadways. County attorney Wil Goering said that 4-wheelers have been allowed for several years in Jefferson County to benefit local farmers and hunters.
However, he added that the county cannot override state law, which sets the regulations for 4-wheeler use, such as proper licensing, headlight use and muffler use.
"Your only remedy would be to stop all 4-wheelers," Goering said.
To put more teeth into the regulations - such as time restrictions - Goering, Wallace and the commissioners said it's an issue that needs to be presented to the General Assembly.
"If we go to our state reps, we may be able to get that changed," said Commissioner Mark Cash about implementing a timeframe for use.
In other business:
The commissioners agreed to table a contract with Securus Technologies for a video visitation service at the jail in order to research online security issues.
With the proposed service, people who go to the jail will be able to visit inmates for free using Securus' computer-based system. But people who access the system through a remote Internet connection outside the jail will be charged a fee. All visitations, much like the in-jail phone calls, will be monitored by jail staff with the exception of calls to or from legal counsel.
The commissioners were in favor of the new direction, but Cash requested time to speak with an IT director from Securus in order to ensure Internet access security, considering people would be using the system from remote locations.
Installation of the system will be at no cost to the county. Once Securus earns back its monthly costs, Wallace said, the contract states that the county will receive 25 percent of the revenue.
The commissioners allowed RQAW, the Indianapolis firm handling designs for the extension office at the 4-H Fairgrounds, to come up with specifications to begin the public bidding process.
The county will seek to bid a scaled-back version of the project and also a series of alternates to see if the project is affordable. The scaled-backed version of the designs cuts the number of offices, a bathroom, kitchen and paved parking lot.
The bids will likely not be opened until early next year.
The county trash cards for 2013 are available for purchase at the auditor's office in the Courthouse. The cards, which are good for the entire year, cost $35. Residents who purchase the cards can use the six drop-off locations in the county.
The commissioners voted to change the speed limit at Meadows subdivision on State Road 7 from 35 mph to 25 mph. The board first heard the proposal to change the speed limit at its last meeting, but tabled the proposal to wait for public comment.
Goering asked county employees to volunteer as Salvation Army bell ringers in front of Walmart on Nov. 24, the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Goering said he hopes to provide bell ringers from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Volunteers are asked to work in one- to two-hour shifts.
Cash reported that IT director Susan Carter is working to develop a sound system for the commissioners meeting room. He said the system could be ready by next month. The room is also used for public meetings by the County Council.
911 Director John Hendrix reported that the new 911 state formula will produce more revenue for the county. The county is slated to receive about $312,000 in funding this year, compared with $276,000 last year.
Commissioners President Julie Berry reported that the county will receive $33,000 from its insurance provider to repaint the Courthouse. When the Courthouse was renovated after the May 2009 fire, the moisture from the water used to put out the flames was left in the structure, causing the paint to bubble.