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Area officials considering participating in new emergency alert program

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NASHVILLE – An intergovernmental panel of city and county officials is considering participation in a new emergency alert system.
Howard County Justices of the Peace and a number of area mayors heard a presentation on Emergency Communications Network’s CodeRed program from sales manager Jill Mason Monday during the quorum court’s regular monthly meeting. For an annual fee of just under $10,000, Mason said membership in the program would provide the capacity for services ranging from location-based weather warnings to missing persons alerts, each of which would go out to anyone who signed up to receive them.
According to Mason, the alerts could be delivered in the form of text messages, social media alerts or old-fashioned phone calls and would be automatically triggered in the event of severe weather. Alternatively, local officials could manually create warnings or announcements for events including boil orders, changes in the trash pickup schedule, gas leaks or scam alerts.
Emergency Management Director Sonny Raulerson, who originally invited Mason to make the presentation, said he had acquired a grant that would fund half of the cost for the system for at least the first year, leaving $4,848.25 to be paid using local tax dollars. Under the proposed plan, the costs would be distributed according to population, with Dierks paying $398.53, Nashville shelling out $1,626.11, Mineral Springs contributing $424.69 and Tollette becoming responsible for $84.38. The remaining $2,313.64 would be picked up by the county, while a one-time website setup fee of $500 would be split equally between each entity.
Both Nashville Mayor Billy Ray Jones and Mineral Springs Mayor Bobby Tullis spoke in favor of the move, as did Dierks Mayor Terry Mounts in a letter provided by County Judge Kevin Smith. The JPs also seemed to favor the proposal, but ultimately tabled the discussion in hopes of learning whether 911 funds might be used to finance the county’s portion of the bill.
A total of 12 counties in Arkansas are already participating in the program, including Pike County, which adopted it in 2011.

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