During, and after, the 2016 workplace shooting incident in Hesston, emergency management of Harvey County was wishing for a mass notification system — a way to push out information to all who needed it.
A similar system is in use by the City of Newton — those who sign up get text messages for weather events, Amber Alerts and other emergencies.
On Tuesday, Gary Denny, emergency management director for Harvey County, told the county commission that such a system is now on the way for not only Harvey County, but eight counties, as well.
“Our goal is to go live at the end of June,” Denny said. “ ... This will also give us access to the Integrated Public Alert Warning System.”
That includes the emergency alert system on television stations, a wireless emergency alert system, NOAA weather radios, employee alert system for the county and a subscription system for the public.
“We have a lot of training and implementation to work out,” Denny said.
The county began looking at a mass notification system in earnest in 2017, with formation of a security group. That group, at the time, found implementation of a system to be cost prohibitive.
In 2018, Harvey County presented the idea to South Central Kansas Homeland Security, which approved funding to help nine counties start up a system, piggybacking on a contract for a system in northeast Kansas.
Counties included in the system that currently do not have a system will be Barber, Barton, Commanche, Edwards, Harvey, Pawnee, Rice, Stafford and Sumner Counties.
The cost of implementation, which includes equipment purchase and training for use of the system, is $120,000 over the course of two years for the nine counties in the system. The contract will have options for three consecutive years.
“We can go back to each county and get an allotment for their share,” Denny said.
He said there is about $20,000 in the current contract for training. In northeast Kansas, the system has been funded using Homeland Security funds.
“This is something that will be very beneficial to our citizens,” said Anthony Swartzendruber, county administrator. “We did not come to you in the past for budget authority to do this, because we knew that (funding) was potentially coming down the line and it is now coming to fruition. It is a great thing for our community.”
In other business, the commission:
• Received a COVID-19 update from the Harvey County Health Department. An additional 101 people were tested in the last week. The county has had 11 confirmed cases discovered.
• Discussed county expenditures for COVID-19 response. Administration estimated the county has spent about $75,000 in response to the disease.
• Approved a rental contract for a tractor for the solid waste department.
• Discussed funding available from the CARES act to assist counties with coronavirus-related expenses for elections. That could mean extra poll workers, PPE for workers or assistance for voting by mail. Harvey County is eligible for about $32,000 in funding. The clerk is planning to mail applications for voting by mail to voters.
• Reviewed the annual county audit.