BENTON -- Scott County is a step closer to having the ability to communicate in case of a disaster.
During Tuesday's regular commission meeting, Sheriff Rick Walter and Joel Evans, county developer, reported $50,500 was approved as part of the federal Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program Interoperable Communications Grant.
"Half of it will go toward a computer, and the other half will pay for eight satellite phones and a repeater," Evans said. The repeater will be placed in the northern part of the county to eliminate some dead spots, he continued, and is digital, so it will be compliant with FCC requirements set for the year 2013.
The Scott City City Council has given its approval for the repeater to be placed on the tower there, Walter said.
Presiding Commissioner Jamie Burger asked what recurring costs the county would be responsible for.
"I don't want to bypass any money we can get to benefit the county, but we have to have the money to operate and service it," he said. "Especially next year when our tax ends, we'll have to figure out different ways to fund these things."
In April, voters narrowly rejected the continuation of a half-cent tax that was originally passed to pay for the jail. About $800,000 was leftover annually after the jail payment, which was used to help pay for other expenses. Last month, commissioners decided not to put the tax back on the November ballot and instead look for other places to trim the budget.
Depending on what system is used for the satellite phones, there will be a monthly charge of approximately $30 per line, Evans said.
In case of an emergency, the equipment is priceless, Walter said. "But in the meantime, we still have to pay our bills," he continued.
Walter suggested they ask the Law Enforcement Crime and Restitution Board to pay for those expenses. Money for the board's fund is generated from fines judges place on specific cases.
"It meets as needed to approve requests from the sheriff or prosecutor to purchase things that are outside of the scope of the budget," Commissioner Dennis Ziegenhorn said. The next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 13.
Ziegenhorn agreed having the board assume responsibility for those costs was a good idea. However, he voiced his concerns with obligating the board to pay those funds every year.
Walter said that would be the only annual bill the board would be responsible for. "We'll just make sure it is a priority item each year," he said.
Also at the meeting, commissioners appointed Randy York of Sikeston to a two-year term on the crime and restitution board, vacated by Ziegenhorn. Walter also told the commission his department has made extra money by assuming responsibility for its commissary recently. The contract with its provider, Aramark, had expired and they were experiencing IT problems, so employees have been doing it themselves.
"It's a little bit more time consuming, but we're actually making more money on it. The first week, we almost doubled the profit," he said. "You're talking about a couple hundred dollars a week -- it's not much money, but over a year, it's quite a bit."
Due to the budget crunch, Walter told the commissioners he is considering keeping that process.
After seeing the FEMA trailer at the Benton Neighbor Days last weekend, Burger asked how many families have visited it to take advantage of the Identikid system. There, officers take DNA samples, fingerprints and photos of children and put it in a packet for their parents, Walter explained. Parents are also instructed how to store it so it can be used in case of an emergency.
"We had a pretty good turnout," Walter said. He pointed out a lot of families have perhaps been to other picnics and already taken advantage of the service, too.
"I think that's a good service to provide, especially at a place like that," Burger said. "A lot of times people won't take the time out to do it, but they will if it's right there."
In other news, Evans told commissioners he is working to apply for a $30,000 grant that will help pay for a portion of the salary for the victims advocate in the county.