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Clanton Council approves public safety infrastructure funding

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

The Clanton City Council committed to its portion of funding for a new public safety communications system during a meeting on Sept. 9.

The system would be a joint project of multiple agencies in the county coordinated by Chilton County E911.

The City of Clanton portion for the infrastructure would be $28,000 and an additional $8,400 for maintenance. This $36,400 would be the annual payment for 10 years. Maintenance costs after that are unknown.

“I don’t think we have any choice,” Councilwoman Mary Mell Smith said after hearing the need for the system and the costs.

Other members agreed, and the funding was unanimously approved.

Cost for the infrastructure was divided among local governments using the same formula as is used for 911 costs.

“Motorola has deferred that first payment until February 2021,” Fire Chief David Driver said.

This does not include the cost for radios for each department. Driver said the fire department has already applied for a grant to fully pay for its radios. Similar grant opportunities are available to the police department.

Police Chief Keith Maddox said the advancements in technology have decreased the cost of creating a countywide system.

The city will need 50 to 60 radios. Each radio is expected to cost at least $1,800.

The company anticipates that the system could be built and functional in about a year. Driver said this gives the city the option to buy the radios a few at a time over the next year and be ready when the system goes live.

“Motorola and the FCC are pretty much guaranteeing this technology to last for the next 20 years,” Police Capt. David Clackley said.

A decision was required by the end of September in order to secure the price.

Dan Wright, 911 director, had presented information on the cost of creating such a system during a previous meeting.

While the plan is to use existing tower sites, additional infrastructure including antennas, repeaters, computer control units for each site and microwave connectivity will be needed.

According to Wright, “The frequencies used are in the 700-800 MHZ range and are specifically for public safety use only.”

The need for such a system that could be used by multiple agencies in the county was presented because the current system, which uses cellphones, loses connection in some areas of the county.

The new system would also integrate with surrounding counties that have already upgraded, meaning a police office could still communicate with 911 and needed agencies if a chase took him or her outside of the county.

Also during the Sept. 9 meeting:

  • Maddox received approval to promote several employees.
  • Councilman Awlahjaday Agee asked the police chief to bring a recommendation for a deputy chief to the next meeting. Maddox agreed to bring a recommendation.
  • Carol Fortuna of Chilton County United Way presented information about 2-1-1. She said this number can be dialed to receive information about service agencies for specific needs. She also received approval to talk to employees about donating through payroll deductions.