A countywide emergency alert system? : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|A countywide emergency alert system?|
|Officials weigh cost of service that would provide storm, other warnings on phones |
|by Matt Schury|
Members of the KenCom Executive Board, the county's emergency 911 dispatching service, were told last week that it might cost the agency more than $25,000 if they decide to move ahead with a countywide emergency alert system.
The system being considered is from a California-based company known as Everbridge.
The cost of the system is estimated at $25,480, according to figures provided by County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Scott Koster.
Koster explained that the system would allow users to obtain alerts on their cell phones in the form of audio recordings, text messages or emails. Phone users are not expected to incur a cost for the service. Residents with landlines would get automated alerts on their phones as well without having to opt into the service.
Koster added that the new system would also broaden the types of messages sent beyond emergencies to things like road closures, boil orders, messages from public works departments or community events.
The KenCom Executive Board operates on a cost sharing structure with each police and fire agency in the county contributing to it based on the number of calls they each receive.
The Kendall County Board also contributes funds to the service though the board voted to cap it's funding at $1.77 million annually.
KenCom Board member-at-large Larry Nelson told board members that they should take the numbers back to their respective boards and let them know what their contributions would be.
Nelson, however, stressed that KenCom cannot fund this service directly out of its current budget.
"We're kind of on-as far as I see it-a zero-based budgeting, where we don't have any more money... we're just hand to mouth basically," Nelson said.
Broken out by percentage the contributions for the alert service per department would be:
•Oswego police: $7,328
•Yorkville police: $3,294
•Oswego fire: $1,982
•Bristol-Kendall fire: $1,098
•Little Rock-Fox fire: $550
•Newark Fire: $135
•Lisbon-Seward fire: $56.05
Board member Gail Johnson, Oswego's representative, voiced support for the service and said she would "sell it" to the village board at their next meeting Feb. 5.
"I think of things that have happened-recent cultural events and disasters natural and otherwise-that can call upon us to do these kinds of things and keep our citizens informed," she said. "In this day and age, there is no reason why we shouldn't keep people informed."
Johnson added that she was in favor of it but wanted to make sure everyone else understood what was being offered and how it would be paid for.
"I think for a municipality the size of mine, it's negligence not to do something like this," Johnson said.
Board member Dave Thompson, Newark Fire District's representative, also said he supported the service calling it a "good deal."
That response was met by laughter from the board since the Newark Fire Department would be contributing one of the smallest amounts.
"A village like Newark should get the most use out of it of anyone because they could get the highest percentage of opt-in from their community," Koster said.
Koster said Everbridge gave them until the end of February to accept the contract at the current pricing for four years with the ability to opt-out of the contract in a year.
'A living nightmare'
Nelson presented a few options the board could follow at the next meeting.
He said they could take a vote with the majority ruling. However, representatives of the municipalities on the board-Oswego, Yorkville and Plano-have the ability to veto any decision by the board. If two or more of those cities want to veto a decision, it is defeated.
Another option, Nelson said, would be to take a vote and only move forward if it is unanimous.
Or they could allocate the emergency alert service to just those entities that wish to support it. Those that wouldn't want to contribute to the service would not receive it.
"I think if you start doing that ... you could start picking apart all the services of KenCom and it becomes a living nightmare," Nelson said. "This would be the tip of the iceberg. Some places I don't want to go with it because it's just going to create more bad blood."
The board will meet next month for the last time before moving from monthly to quarterly meetings.
Nelson cautioned the board members to bring this before their respective boards soon for review since the next meeting after February won't be for a couple of months.
"You have to decide do we really want it in our community or not?" Nelson said. "I don't want to put out anything negative."
Darald Nelson, KenCom's vice chairman, said he wanted notification from the municipalities if they intended to veto so KenCom could move ahead with the service if it's approved at that the next meeting.
Koster said he thought it was a "good cost-benefit ratio" to the communities.
"I'm not going to sell it any more than I've sold it. I think it's going to be an effective tool," Koster said.
County Sheriff Richard Randall said the alert system would be a good government service.
"Government could actually work for the people," Randall said.
Koster noted that schools districts already have an alert service like this.
"They are way ahead of us on this," Koster said.
Johnson said it costs the Oswego School District over $50,000 a year for their emergency notification system.
Nelson added that it would be on the agenda at the next Executive Board meeting Feb. 28.
"So everybody needs to make sure they take it to their governmental body and we're all in a position to make a decision," Nelson said.
In the meantime, the county is not completely without an emergency notification system as it has the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) operated through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The system provides emergency notifications to landline users as well as cellphone users in a particular geographical area.
In the meantime, Koster said the county is not completely without an emergency notification system as it has the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) operated through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The system provides emergency notifications to landline users as well as cellphone users in a particular geographical area. Koster has said the system is used to inform people in the case of a "significant and serious" emergency event.
Board to meet quarterly
The KenCom Executive Board voted unanimously to give their Finance Committee the authority to pay monthly bills between their quarterly Executive Board meetings. Johnson wanted to be emailed a list of what bills the committee was approving. The Finance Committee meets the third Thursday of each month at 10 a.m. at the County's Public Safety Center in Yorkville.
Nelson, who is chairman of the Finance Committee, said it would notify everyone on the board of the bills being paid each month. Lynette Burgeron, KenCom's assistant director, said the bills wouldn't be sent out until the morning of the Finance Committee meeting. Randall noted those committee meetings are open to the public.