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Commission approves Marion office for E-911, announces $120k in grants for local fire departments

Perry County Volunteer Fire Departments are eligible for grants from the State of Alabama. Perry County Commission Chairman Albert Turner announced the grant opportunity at the commission’s first March meeting on Tuesday night. Turner said there was a total of up to $120k that could enter local volunteer departments’ coffers in Perry County through the program. The commission would be helping departments apply for the grants, he said. “If you have a fire department in your district,” Turner told the commissioners, “Make sure they get us a voided check, because the funds will be electronically deposited in their account. They’ll also need a tax ID number.” Bill DeYampert of the Alabama Forestry Commission, who was in the audience for the meeting, said he would be getting in touch with the county’s fire departments to follow up on the program. “We don’t want to lose that money,” said Turner. “This money will be available for them to do whatever they need to do with it.” Commissioner Cedric Hudson said the grant program and process was similar to grants received by county fire departments from the state about a year ago. DeYampert also addressed the commission on behalf of the county’s E-911 Board, of which he is a member. DeYampert said the board had voted to move its headquarters from Uniontown to Marion, and was there to ask for the commission’s help in finding a suitable location. DeYampert said E-911’s current location in Uniontown was “not satisfactory.” Some of the problems had to to with the building itself, he said, but radio issues were more significant. “The way the radio system works is like a lamp. If you put it in the corner of the room, the rest of the room does not get light. If you put it in the middle, you get a lot better coverage,” DeYampert said. Federal regulations caused broadcast wattages to be cut in half several years ago, he said, in an attempt to control bleed-over between different channels. The effect locally was that a transmitter located in Uniontown may have been sufficient to cover the whole county when it was installed, but now doesn’t have the reach it once did. He said the board had narrowed their choices down to offices in one of two county-owned buildings: the Albert Turner Sr. Courthouse Annex, located next to the county jail, or the courthouse annex at the former H&H building, located east of town near the county health department. DeYampert said the board preferred the downtown location because of its proximity to a law enforcement facility. “With the jail next door, it’s got a little more security,” he said. He noted that there would be two employees on site 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. DeYampert said he had checked on the state’s regulations and confirmed that E-911 offices were required to be housed in a lockable building, but that was the only requirement. “It does not have to be in a jail or in a secured building,” he said. “We got grant money that’s approved that needs to get spent or we’re going to lose it,” he added. Turner said he wanted to see a specific motion from the board selecting one of the two locations before the commission voted on the matter. “Don’t you have a meeting Thursday?” Turner said. “We do,” said DeYampert. “I think you’ll get it passed and we’ll go ahead an act on your decision after that meeting,” he said. Commissioner Brett Harrison made a motion that the county allow E-911 to move into the courthouse annex. Commissioner Ben Eaton offered a second. “I do not recognize the second,” said Turner. “I would like you to take the proposal to your board and get it clear.” Turner said it was his understanding that Sheriff Billy Jones, a member of the 911 board, was not present at the meeting when it voted on the locations. “The sheriff got there late and was there for the vote,” said DeYampert. “He did vote yes on it.” “What does it matter what they vote?” asked Hudson. “If we make a motion to allow them to use the rooms—if they don’t want to move they don’t have to move, so I don’t see what the point of [waiting] is.” Turner suggested that Harrison amend his motion to reflect that the permission for the board to locate in the annex is granted “pending legal approval.” Hudson accused Turner of “talking in circles.” “You don’t have the floor,” Turner said. Harrison amended his motion stating that the county would offer the board permission to move into the annex with the understanding that the permission was contingent on the building’s lockable door being sufficient to secure the facility according to state regulations. “I make a motion to override the chair’s decision to not listen to [the original] motion,” said Commissioner Eaton. “You don’t have the floor to make such a motion,” said Turner. Turner stated Harrison’s motion as amended and called for a vote. “I ask for a roll call vote,” said Hudson. “I don’t recognize that,” said Turner. The motion carried by unanimous voice vote, granting 911 the permission to begin the process of relocating to the downtown Marion building.