Many questions still remain unanswered as Phelps County Commissioners continue to consider purchasing a mass notification system.

Many questions still remain unanswered as Phelps County Commissioners continue to consider purchasing a mass notification system.
Among the questions commissioners raised during the Oct. 24 commission meeting were which entity should take the lead — the commission or county emergency services board — as well as which entities are interested in sharing the cost of a new alert system.
On Oct. 8, the commission invited several entities, including school districts, law enforcement agencies, fire departments and municipal leaders to view a presentation at the Phelps County Courthouse of a mass notification system offered by Everbridge.
With the Everbridge system, entities can send out notifications about severe weather alerts, evacuations, power outages, boil orders, road closures, and even changes in trash pickup schedules or possibly if jury duty is cancelled.
County residents would have to opt in to receive alerts and they can choose which notifications they want to receive and how they’re delivered.
District One Commissioner Larry Stratman is asking for feedback from the various agency representatives who viewed the presentation, but both he and District Two Commissioner Gary Hicks noted that it is difficult for entities to commit to a new system when they don’t know their share of the cost yet.
An Everbridge company official said he could offer all interested agencies the unlimited use system for an annual cost of $14,950, which includes $13,000 for the unlimited system and $1,950 for weather alerts. There is also a one-time setup fee, which amounts to 8 percent of the total cost.
Stratman said that cost breaks down to about 33 cents per county resident per year.
The cost per entity could be based on the number of participants in each entity as well as on a pro-rated basis.
Presiding Commissioner Randy Verkamp also noted that because he has received an offer from CodeRED, a different company that offers an alert system, bids will need to be sought.
Verkamp also asked if the county should lead the effort for a new mass notification system or if the Phelps County Emergency Services Board should. Verkamp agreed to talk with the board.
“It should and could be a PCESB project, but when you bring in the school systems, the county would be considered a better contact point,” Stratman said.
Hicks also noted during the Oct. 24 meeting that the mass notification system being discussed currently is now larger than originally anticipated.
He reminded the commissioners the original reason county officials began discussing this was to have an improved notification system for the courthouse.
However, County Clerk Carol Bennett said nearly $15,000 is a lot of cost to notify only individuals in the courthouse. A countywide system would benefit residents in areas like Newburg or Rosati who have no other way of receiving warnings about tornadoes, she said.
Also at the Oct. 24 meeting, the commission approved the transfer of a van used for water rescues by the sheriff’s department to the Doolittle Rural Fire Protection District. The vehicle had previously been donated to the sheriff’s department by the St. James Ambulance District.