Commissioners Hear Text Option System for 1st Responders

Becky Schaefer, head of the County Communications Department met with Commissioners during their regular weekly meeting on Monday morning to discuss the possibility of purchasing a text program as a secondary way of reaching all First Responders when the need arises.

This system called the E-Dispatcher program would allow her to page out emergency information to members of the city and rural fire departments in the county, the Emergency Medical Service employees, rescue squad members and possibally the Mitchell County Sheriff and Beloit Police Chief if they choose to participate in the program.

Schaefer explained the way the system works and the three options that would be available for those who choose to take part in the program to receive their messages.
Schaefer said she has contacted most of the departments in the county she felt could really benefit from being a part of the program and they are all been very receptive. She still has to get confirmation from Beloit and Cawker City.

Schaefer stressed that she would just be the administrator of the program and after it is set up each entity would have control of their member roster and sending out the messages relevant to their department although everyone in the program would be able to hear the messages.

The company selling the program offers a thirty-day free trial run. They would set up the system in her department for a fee of $199 and equip the departments that take part in the trial with the components they need try the system. She figures there would be around 164 people in the system depending on what Cawker City and the two law enforcement entities decide to do.

All departments participating would pay their share of the cost, which would be around $360 a year prorated cost when divided by the eight or nine different participants or around $20 to $30 a month for each to pay no matter how many people they have in their department, Schaefer said.

The commissioners agreed this sounds like a good investment but opted to start with the thirty-day free trial run at a cost of $199 to see how it works out. Schaefer said she would contact the company and get more specific a cost amount when she finds out how many will be participating.

Schaefer had another issue to discuss with the commissioners. She explained that there are three big battery backup cartridges in her department. They have been working fine for the past ten years but the equipment is telling her she needs to replace the battery packs to avoid problems. She will have to have an electrician do this work and fasten them right into her dispatch system. It will cost over $1,000 to purchase these and Brian Streit; Maintenance Department Manager would not be able to do this work. She has a bid from Computer Solutions Inc. for $1,000 just for the battery alone and hopes to get a second bid.

When asked how soon the battery-back up system kicks on Schaefer said it has to be wired into their center so it comes on immediately and there isn't a break in the reception. The back-up system has to keep carrying the load until the generator kicks back on. The commissioners unanimously approved the purchase of the battery back-up system. Commissioner Cooper asked to be included in the trail run to see how this works but said he didn't want to be placed on it permanently.

Larry Emerson, Public Works, brought Casey Fraser of Martin Caterpillar Company in Salina, in to visit with commissioners about some equipment needs his department has. Fraser said he and Emerson had been talking about Mitchell County doing a buy back on lease purchases. Commissioner Cooper said the commission is trying to get the county's budget system to stretch a little farther. Fraser said the lease system works really well for counties on tight budgets as long as they don't end up paying for it at the end of the term agreement and having to buy it all over again. Their company's interest rate is 3.2 percent right now.

Commissioner Cooper said, "We are just in exploratory mode right now. We would like to possibally lengthen the lease to ten years. We would also like to have you figure the difference in the cost of a 5, a 7, and a 10 year lease and then figure what the residual would be when the lease is up because right now we are trying to tighten our belts. As things are right now we only have one option."

Cooper said they want to stretch the counties tax dollars and not have to have a tax increase like last year. Fraser said this was a good idea since at the present time the county has everything paid for and all the equipment is in pretty good shape. Emerson and his crew take good care of their equipment and usually receive a premium for their machines when they sell them. Cooper said the commissioners would like to see all this in writing so they can try to make it cash flow better for the taxpayers in the county. Fraser will work this out and get back to them.

Emerson discussed the need for a new motor grader and purchasing a new or used excavator since the one they have has had a lot of hard use tearing out old bridges. Fraser suggested they could rent on of these for two or three days when they need one several times a year since a new one costs around $70,000. A wider machinery trailer was also discussed.

Emerson presented a contract from Schwab-Eaton Engineers to do the inspection on 20 bridges at $120 a bridge or a total of $2,400. John Cashatt will still do bridge inspections and design bridges for them when they need him even though he is retired. Emerson said his crews are still graveling and trimming trees. Honey Lane is finished and two miles of the road north of Scottsville. The Plum Creek road needs work done on it in the near future.

Ed Debesis, EMS Director had a 10-minute executive meeting with commissioners to discuss non-elected personnel. No decisions were made.

Chairman Jim Marshall and Commissioner Tom Claussen reported on attending the Fire District Meeting last Tuesday and the Health Advisory Meeting on Wednesday.
They discussed the Bob Box Program started by Congressman Bob Dole with a donation of Fifty thousand dollars, two years ago. Mitchell County receives 12 boxes of food a month to be given to Senior Citizens, one box per family a month. Some are going to needy families. The Kansas Food Bank is also making contributions. There is no income guideline and more boxes can be gotten as needed.

Heather Hartman, County Development Director, reported on her three-day trip to Topeka. She had pictures of the newly finished renovations to the Capitol Building, heard Governor Brownback's State of the State address and also talks by other governmental officials. Hartman announced Mitchell County and the Kansas Association of Counties (KAC) are hosting a water meeting on February 27, at the Down Under Restaurant at 5:30 with dinner at 6 p.m. This is by invitation only. The meeting is part of Governor Brownbacks 50-year Plan for future water needs in the state. Officials from the KAC will be the speakers.

There will be a Disaster Board Meeting at 7 p.m. tomorrow night, Wednesday Jan. 22, at the EMS Building. The SVED Board meeting is Thursday, January 23rd, Hartman said.

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