A Macon City Council committee unanimously endorsed a new emergency alert system Monday, but added financial caveats when council members discovered a grant to pay part of the cost was not in the approved city budget.
Everbridge Inc. of Glendale, Calif., is to be paid $35,280 under the one-year contract for the mass-notification system, replacing the current system from CodeRED.
Appropriations Committee Chairman Tom Ellington noted there isnt enough in the Macon-Bibb County Emergency Management Agencys software budget to cover the cost, and Finance Director Megan McMahon said the rest will come from an annual performance partnership grant thats going into a special revenue fund.
Where in the budget would we see this special revenue fund? Ellington asked. Its not, McMahon replied. She later said it is included in the citys annual financial report.
If there is a pot of money somewhere that we are not even cognizant of, I think this is perhaps a larger problem than what it seemed to be, Ellington said.
Councilman Henry Ficklin moved successfully to make the contract approval contingent on getting the grant officially added to the budget.
The new system comes with unlimited minutes for automated calls and text messages, unlike CodeRED, which charged extra for more than 180,000 minutes, EMA Director Don Druitt said. Since there are 60,000 people on the EMA call list for emergency alerts, CodeREDs minutes would be used by just three one-minute calls, he said. Unlimited minutes would allow the city to send out announcements for more than emergencies, perhaps adding delinquent-bill alerts and community events, Druitt said.
The contract and other items ratified Monday face a final vote by full council Tuesday.
The committee voted 5-0 for a $76,743 contract with Cranston Engineering Group of Augusta to design a fix for seepage under part of the Ocmulgee River levee. Sand boils, forced up on the land side of the levee by water pressure, were noticed by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers inspectors on their annual visit, Bibb County Engineer David Fortson said. The affected 900-foot stretch is near the Schnitzer Southeast site at 950 Lower Poplar Road, he said.
Money for the design and eventual repair is expected to come from a fund established by the Macon Water Authority in 2011, which can only be used for closing the city landfill or levee maintenance.
Rosa Parks Square
Also getting 5-0 approval was money for improvements to Rosa Parks Square: an identifying stone sign, about 100 shrubs to create two landscaped rooms, and a monolith honoring Parks herself, said Sam Henderson, executive assistant to the mayor. At Ficklins request, the amount was cut from a $15,000 estimate to $13,265, the expected actual cost of materials. The work is to be done by Central Services employees, Henderson said.
The money may not have to come out of city coffers, because the administration is looking for donations. The city would only cover what cant be raised privately, Henderson said.
The committee voted unanimously to specify in the budget how recreation will be funded under the Macon-Bibb County consolidated government, which takes over Jan. 1.
Ellington said the resolution from Ficklin points up a philosophical difference between how the city and county are accounting for their merged finances in the second half of the fiscal year, which ends June 30.
Now the city contributes 18 percent of its revenue from the local option sales tax, about $3 million per year, to help pay for the recreation functions that Bibb County manages. Thats not specified in the budget since all that tax money will go direct to the merged government, but that doesnt mean funding will drop, Ellington said.
I think its clear that the money is available, he said.