BOE discusses 911 contract, backup radios 

Published 11:39 am Thursday, September 8, 2022

By JOYANNA LOVE | Managing Editor

The Chilton County Board of Education discussed an expected new contract with the Chilton County 911 Board and whether it would be able to fund it during a meeting on Sept. 6.

The BOE has approved ending the current contract with the Chilton County 911 Board. An updated contract with a new amount being requested as the school system’s portion toward the P25 countywide emergency communications system is expected to be available soon.

Superintendent Jason Griffin said a new contract is being worked on for all of the entities involved because there are additional infrastructure needs for the system that have to be funded.

He said when he receives this, he will present it to the board. Board members said it would also be helpful to have Trae Caton of Chilton County 911, who is coordinating the project, present at the meeting when it is discussed.

While an updated contract has not been presented, Price said the latest cost that Caton had given was $124,101 per year for 10 years. The cost could change after 10 years because there would no longer be infrastructure construction costs, just maintenance and fees on the radios the school system owns.

Board member Chris Smith asked Chief School Financial Officer Alisa Benson how this could be funded. Benson responded that it would have to be paid out of the local tax revenue that the school system receives.

“I am in favor of trying to make it work,” board member Keith Moore said. “I will be honest with you; I don’t care if we have to pay it out of local funds.”

The school system is already successfully using the P25 radios and the countywide communications system for its bus drivers while on their routes. The consoles on each bus give the driver a button they can press to put them in direct communication with the 911 dispatchers. There are also some radios in each school.

The 911 Board has already stated that if the school system does not pay on a contract, the service to the radios and consoles will be cut off. Griffin said there is a backup plan available going back to a former style of radio for the bus drivers. However, this system eliminates the direct access to the 911 dispatchers. Instead, they would have to contact the bus shop, which would then contact 911. There is someone at the bus shop until all of the bus routes have been completed.

“This is a safety measure on our part,” Griffin said. “There is no law that requires us to have radio communication, but it is … the best practice to have communications with the buses, so we made Plan B just in case.”

Board member Diane Calloway expressed concern about the P25 radios not working inside the school building. Griffin said a solution has been found in using the school system’s Wi-Fi, which all local law enforcement has access to. Radios will be set to automatically switch from the countywide communications system to the school’s Wi-Fi when in a school, board member Chris Smith said.

“They have had access to that from the very beginning,” Griffin said.

Another option would be purchasing boosters for the communications system.