911 board approves costsplit agreement for GIS hire

With one member absent, the sevenmember Blount County 911 Board unanimously approved a draft agreement with the county commission to split the costs associated with hiring a new employee at the 911 center to produce maps based on Geographic Information System (GIS) computer technology for users authorized by the county commission. The matter was approved at an emergency meeting called by the board on Tuesday, Oct. 28. Board member Loyd Arrington was absent.

Map users have traditionally included law enforcement, volunteer fire departments, the probate office, the county commission, the revenue commission, and EMA. It could include other agencies which may be authorized by the county commission from time to time to apply for the mapping service. In the past, mapping for these users was handled as a voluntary duty by retired EMA director Max Armstrong, who was selftrained to perform the job. In recent years, it has been requiring ever-larger amounts of time, equipment, and supplies.

After discussions with 911 director Caleb Branch, the county voted earlier this year to situate responsibility for ongoing mapping within the 911 group, a major user, and to divide with 911 the cost of hiring a trained employee to handle the job.

According to the agreement, the two entities would evenly split approximately $69,000 in annual costs, to include the cost of an employee’s salary and benefits, along with costs of materials and equipment needed. The term of the agreement is three years, with provisions to renew as needed. The board approved a motion to advertise the job locally and in appropriate publications of wider circulation.

The board also discussed at length recent criticisms of the county radio communications system managed and maintained by 911.

Topics discussed included (1) hiring an engineering consultant to conduct an objective evaluation of the system’s performance, including recommendations to remedy any problems identified, (2) embarking on a two-fold strategy to remedy problems that can be remedied immediately at moderate cost (3) developing concurrently a 5- to 10- year plan to evolve the system in directions dictated by changing technology in order to improve overall communications performance. No decisions were made and discussion of actions to be taken can be expected to continue.

The next opportunity for discussion of the matter will be the board’s regular meeting on Nov. 20. The public is welcome to attend, according to Branch.