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Numbers come in for lightning damage repair

Marissa E. Lane, Staff Writer

At their May 17 meeting, county council worked to find the best course of action to repair the lightning damage to the jail, Sheriff's department and emergency dispatch without draining too much of the county's budget. On Monday, June 4, commissioners received a better idea of just how expensive this repair is going to be.

The total projected cost of the project is $31,420.45, with the brunt of that being for a $19,462 voice recording system for the 911 dispatch. The system is necessary for dispatch's job, recording communications between 911 callers, law enforcement and emergency services and dispatch. At the time of the strike, Union County dispatch's system was already over a decade old, proprietary and nearly obsolete, meaning that now the county will have to replace it as opposed to repairing it. Dispatch's equipment took the most damage overall, but thankfully none of the radios—which can cost more than $100,000 per unit—were hit by the surge. Televisions, computers and batteries throughout the building will also need replaced.

Most of the damages should be covered by the county's insurance, which has a $5,000 deductible. But dispatch doesn't have the luxury of waiting for insurance to pay before making the repairs.

“We'll have to do some appropriations for money for now, but as insurance comes in, we can reimburse the funds,” said auditor Gene Sanford.

Commissioners are continuing to use this strike as a good reason to check the building's wiring, take better care of the equipment and give the 911 dispatchers more space. Currently, there are more issues than just lightning damage—the summer heat could prove to be an issue for the radio room. Jeff Mathews, who has been working with the Sheriff's department and the dispatchers to get their technology back to functional, noticed that the radios put off a lot of heat in a small space with little ventilation. Since there will be air conditioning in the dispatch space, he using a system of forced air into the radio room.

“We need to cool it off in there,” said Mathews. “It's a major issue.”

Moving the dispatchers will also eliminate the issue of crossed, unmarked wires and too much technology in too little space, both of which make any repair or troubleshooting difficult currently. Mathews has plans to color code and organize as much as possible in the new space to be more efficient.

Commissioners agreed that many of the issues in the dispatch office should have been taken care of in the past, but the replacement and repairs do provide a perfect opportunity to start fresh and take preventative measures for the future.

“Yes, it's going to cost us a chunk of money. But when all is said and done, we'll be in a much better place,” Mathews said.

“Get it done, and make sure it's done right,” said commissioner Alan Alcorn.