Phelps County officials are leaning toward using the Everbridge company to implement a mass notification system in the county but have made no final decision yet.
County commissioners want to make sure a project manager is chosen to oversee the project first before a contract is signed.
On Dec. 12, the commission opened proposals from five different vendors that offer mass alert systems. They are:
• MIR3, which will offer a system for an annual cost of $35,440;
• SwiftReach Networks, Inc., which will offer a system for an annual fee of $7,500, plus a one-time account setup fee of $500 and a one-time data cost and import of $700;
• Everbridge, which will offer a system that includes weather alerts for an annual fee of $14,950, plus one-time implementation and setup fees totaling $1,196;
• Rave Mobile Safety, which will offer one system with a yearly license fee of $9,000, plus a one-time setup fee of $2,000, an option for IPAWS (Integrated Public Alert and Warning System) with a one-time setup fee of $2,000, and a 25-cent per loaded citizen line per year with a setup fee of $2,000;
• SirenGPS, which will offer a system for an annual cost of $22,578.
At the Dec. 17 commission meeting, District One Commissioner Larry Stratman said he started reviewing the bids starting with the lowest cost — SwiftReach. Stratman said based on that company's proposal, he doesn't believe that system offers portals like the Everbridge system does.
With the alert system, each entity would be given a portal to manage that would allow the entity to send notifications to people who sign up to receive the alerts or messages.
Everbridge's proposal had the second lowest cost. Stratman said he is familiar with what the Everbridge system does and is pleased with it.
Stratman said he didn't feel he needed to review proposals that have a higher cost.
Later in the meeting Stratman said while many representatives from Rolla Municipal Utilities and the Phelps County Emergency Services Board said they have been tentative about seeing the potential uses for the system and a column by Rolla Daily News writer R.D. Hohenfeldt questioned the need for such an alert system, their concerns got Stratman to question himself.
"Is my enthusiasm for this misplaced?" he asked. He said he felt in his heart that offering such a system is the right thing to do, adding that this system could help give weather alerts to residents in Jerome, Rosati or other outlying areas that have no other form of warnings.
The cities of Rolla and St. James and Phelps County have all responded positively to having a mass notification system while other entities "have their toe in the water," Stratman said.
Many other governmental entities and emergency response groups will be able to try the system out next year, if a contract is approved, at no cost to them to see how the system works.
Page 2 of 2 - Stratman said any entity can use the system. "It's the only way for them to know and be convinced," he said.
For the first year, the county sheriff's and prosecutor's offices have offered to fund the system with asset forfeiture funds.
After that, county commissioners have proposed splitting the costs among the entities interested in using the system.
In Everbridge's proposal, it states that if a contract is signed by Dec. 31, the county will get one free month of service, meaning that the first year's contract, if approved, would actually expire Feb. 1, 2015.
Sheriff Rick Lisenbe said he sees a mass alert system as something positive, noting that it can be used to warn residents of active shooters, manhunts, lost children or when power will be restored.
"We have nothing right now except friends notifying friends notifying friends," Lisenbe said.
County Clerk Carol Bennett said it will take a strong, committed person who has the technical knowledge to oversee the implementation of a mass alert system.
Some counties have their emergency management director oversee it, but commissioners have suggested that the project manager be someone in the sheriff's department or possibly a team made up of representatives from the sheriff's office, Rolla Police Department and cities of Rolla and St. James. That person or team could then help other entities that want to use the system.
Stratman said the marketing and promotion of an alert system should stay with the commissioners or clerk's office. "If no one signs up, it's worthless," he said.
In other business
• Also at the Dec. 17 meeting, the commission learned that the county Senior Companions program has been awarded a grant for four months. That could be extended for a full year if a budget deal is reached in Congress.
• Commissioners also authorized additional expenditures that will likely be needed on a floodplain administration contract.
• Stratman and Bennett said they both recently voiced their displeasure to staff with Sen. Roy Blunt's office recently regarding a FEMA (Federal Emergency Response Agency) representative who has been working with the road department after record August floods caused several road problems in the county.
• County Treasurer Carol Green told the commission that several county funds invested in certificates of deposit are coming for renewal Jan. 1. The commission approved a motion for Green and Bennett to go over some of the funds' balances before they make a recommendation as to whether or not seek bids from banks to hold the funds.