Trial and error leads to new county alert system

Published 5:58 pm Monday, June 12, 2017

BEAUMONT— A few issues related to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office were front and center at Monday afternoon’s Jefferson County Commissioners’ Court meeting.

The commissioners approved an Inter-local Agreement between the county and the South East Texas Regional Planning Commission allowing Jefferson County use of the Swift Reach 911 Emergency Alerting System. Sheriff Zena Stephens described the new system as a better provider with more attributes and at a better price than the current Blackboard Connect system.

For instance, a bomb threat was called in to the courthouse on June 5. Stephens said it was a great training opportunity for the JCSO to use the Blackboard system and prepare a plan.

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Everette “Bo” Alfred, Precinct 4 county commissioner, asked if different departments at the courthouse could be contacted via email. Greg Fountain, emergency management coordinator, said the courthouse’s fire alarm system allows messaging and dispatching instead.

Stephens said though everyone exited the building for the bomb threat, it highlighted the gaps in the system since it was the first time to use the messaging feature through the fire alarm system. She added that some employees haven’t signed up yet and the system is only as good as the participation.

The county will start using Swift Reach in October.

The commissioners approved a memorandum of agreement between the JCSO and the Texas Department of Transportation for locating a license plate reader camera system on Interstate 10.

Stephens said the JCSO has already used LPRs. The LPR is useful for crime prevention, posting speed control and keeping the public safe.

“It’s another tool we have,” she said.

The final Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office item approved was downgrading some departmental positions.

For example: Downgrade of the administrative deputy county clerk position with an annual budget of $53,914 to a senior deputy county clerk position with an annual budget of $39,760.

In addition, two deputy county clerk positions with an annual budget of $40,710 and $38,605 were reclassified to an administrative office specialist with an annual budget of $44,105 and $45,260. The net effect of these changes will result in an estimated annual savings of $5,000 including fringe benefits.

Lastly, it was approved to execute the North American Wetlands Conservation Act Proposal Partner Contribution Forms for both the upper and middle salt bayou marsh siphon grant requests.

County Judge Jeff Branick said the grant requested is $1 million that will supplement a previous $4.5 million grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

The county’s contribution is $100,000 in engineering work. Jefferson County is not required to put in any additional money.

The goal is to prevent saltwater intrusion south of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway from flowing from the higher elevation from the north.

“We’re happy with the restoration efforts and the support we received from the state,” Branick said.