County considers mass notice

Published 3:00 am Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Pike County may soon be getting a mass emergency notification system after the Pike County Commission discussed a potential program with EMA Director Jeanna Barnes on Monday.

After a tornado siren in Goshen went down last month, the EMA ran into trouble fixing the siren as parts have been discontinued. The remaining options to fix the siren could cost between $8,000 and $10,000, the total annual budget that Barnes has to spend on sirens.

What’s more, of the county’s 18 sirens, Barnes said 10 of the sirens would be in the same boat were they to go down.

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“All it would take is for lightning to strike one and (the system) could be down,” Barnes told the commission.

Barnes also added that the sirens only cover a range of one mile, and can only be used to warn citizens within range of a tornado warning.

With all of this information in hand, Barnes gave the pitch to the commission to re-consider a mass notification system, something she pitched to the prior commission before the new commission was certified.

Barnes said that the new system would cost $8,000 to start up and then require just $6,500 a year to operate, which is roughly what Barnes estimates she spends on pre-ventive maintenance on sirens each year.

Commissioner Homer Wright asked a tough question about the system: “How will this serve all of the elderly folk that don’t use new technology?”

Barnes answered the question by explaining that the system would not only send text alerts, but could also send phone alerts to cell phones and landlines, send emails and even connect to social media accounts.

Another advantage listed by Barnes is the program’s ability to inform citizens of more than just tornado threats, but also road closures, emergency evacuations, active shooters, etc.

Citizens would need to register for the service, but doing so would be voluntary and free.

One aspect of the program would also bypass the need to sign up in the case of real emergencies such as tornadoes, with the ability to send alerts to every cell phone in range of a tower in Pike County.

In other business, the county heard from County Engineer Russell Oliver about his desire to start a committee to give the commission a comprehensive view of the road de-partment structure and its needs and to provide direction into what areas need to be fo-cused on and what to cut.

“I feel like when I bring just one thing forward, I’m only showing you one piece of the puzzle,” Oliver said. “This would get everyone on the same sheet of music and let everyone see the whole puzzle.”

The commission decided to hold off on taking action until they can confirm the legality of the move.

Oliver also requested for the commission to extend two part time positions for up to three months to assist in smoothing dirt roads affected by heavy rains last week, which the commission approved.

The commission also approved for Oliver to advertise for two part-time positions and one full-time job, which he said was needed after the retirement and resignation of two workers so far this year.

The temporary workers will only work until the new employees are hired.

The commission also approved refurbishing for the county’s spray by Roadside Inc. for $15,000 and heard about the possibility of hiring Roadside to consult on spraying. However, the commission decided to take a bit more time to analyze the numbers before making a final decision on hiring the company.

The commission also got an update on jail repairs, which Renis Jones with PH&J architectural firm said is going off without a hitch. The commission also moved to clarify in the minutes of the August 22 and September 26 meetings that the only contract that was agreed to with PH&J at this time is the jail repairs– not the contract to design and construct a new jail.

The next meeting of the Pike County Commission will be January 23. The work ses-sion will begin at 5:15 p.m. and will be followed by the regular meeting at 6 p.m. The commission meets upstairs in the Pike County Health Department.