Madison County’s 911 system is overdue for upgrades and county voters approved $905,000 in sales tax money last year to make that happen. But the exact timeline for the changes remains to be seen.
County commissioners heard Monday about the need in a presentation from 911 director Brenan Baird, who was accompanied by Sheriff Michael Moore.
The two put their proposal in writing to the board several weeks ago. It calls for a new emergency radio system and a new 911 facility.
“Madison County’s public safety radio infrastructure is rapidly degrading and has become undependable to the point it must be replaced,” wrote Baird and Moore. “The system we have is becoming more difficult to repair and keep functional as the infrastructure it operates on continues to be phased out in favor of more dependable systems.”
Baird and Moore said the “radio operability is sporadic at best and nonfunctional at worst.” They said the analog system is outdated and needs to be replaced with a digital system.
“Many areas of the county are ‘dead spots’ which leaves public safety personnel at risk, delays response time while phones and playback features are used to decipher communications, and creates safety and liability concerns,” they wrote. “Even our current radio provider is in agreement that the system needs to be replaced.”
They said the old, brick building in Danielsville is no longer a good place to house the county 911 communications.
“The need for a purpose built building is due to the current building being more than 50 years old, not being capable of expansion, not being laid out in a way that is conducive to its function, not providing ease of ingress and egress for the public, having asbestos ceilings, requiring thousands of dollars per year in repairs to AC and electrical malfunctions, and not being at a location where the transmitter tower is connected to it creating the need for an additional tower,” wrote Baird and Moore.
Baird presented proposals from three companies for the radio system. He said only one company was able to handle all that is needed. He asked the board to move forward with the projects.
But board members spoke at length about the need to seek official bids for the projects. They said they wanted more specifics spelled out for potential vendors. Commissioner Lee Allen made a motion to seek bids for a new radio system and a “Request for Proposal” for a new 911 facility.
In other matters, the board agreed to renew its property and casualty insurance with One Beacon Insurance for $242,998. Chastain & Associates Insurance agent Dan Horne said the premium increase is 8.5 percent this year, but he noted that the premium went down five percent last year. He said One Beacon has averaged a three-percent increase over the past 10 years while serving the county.
The board discussed distribution of sales tax funds. Madison County recently approved a bond resolution so that $9 million out of a projected $13 million in sales tax funds over the next six years could be received immediately so projects can get underway. Four cities in Madison County — Danielsville, Ila, Comer and Carlton — opted not to participate in the bond issuance, opting to receive their allotment over six years, while Colbert and Hull will receive their six-year share immediately. Board members agreed to fund the 911 upgrades early and provide 60 percent of the promised funds to fire departments immediately. Chairman John Scarborough said the county has $8.4 million available now in its sales tax account. The county will allocate money to the four cities that opted out of the bond resolution after the bond debt obligations are met each year, which is expected about eight or ninth months after the July bond initiation. That means the towns can expect a payment in March or April.
Scarborough urged the commissioners to think about how they want to allocate sales tax funds.
“I think it would be very good to have a plan, an idea of how you want to flow this, whether you want to set percentages on disbursements,” he said. “My belief is that all departments will be served well. It will be evenly disbursed. If there’s a shortage, it will be to each department proportionally… Citizens voted for these projects and the money will go to that project. But it’s the board’s responsibility to figure out how and when disbursed.”
He said the county collected $232,000 in sales taxes in July, up from $190,000 and $191,000 the previous two years. He said he believes sales tax revenues will exceed projections over six years.
In an unrelated matter, county commissioners discussed allowing the county’s volunteer fire departments to purchase fuel at the county farm in Danielsville, where they would pay a reduced government rate. Commissioners spoke favorably about the idea. County attorney Mike Pruett said he needs to make sure the county can legally sell fuel to the fire departments.
Scarborough said the county will have $713,509 in funds available in the annual state matching grant program for roads. Madison County will have to fund roughly $300,000 in road projects to receive the state money, meaning the county will have about $1 million to spend through the Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant (LMIG). Scarborough asked board members to think about what roads need to be considered through the LMIG program.