Ahoskie votes for CodeRED

Published 10:13 am Tuesday, November 17, 2015

AHOSKIE – CodeRED for the town is not dead, but it did appear for a time Monday to have had its wind knocked out.

The Ahoskie Town Council, at its Nov. 9 meeting, voted to put the system in the town’s budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year.

Last month the Council heard a presentation about the system, which gives out public safety alerts allowing persons on CodeRED to keep up to date with factors that affect their lives, particularly environmental, such as weather alerts. Because the information is time-sensitive, info is often received within seconds of its distribution. However, the system could also be used for alerts to community activities such as the itinerary for Heritage Festival.

The system is administered by the Emergency Communications Network located in Florida.

Hertford County’s Emergency Management system currently uses CodeRED, having transitioned from DeltAlert over a year ago.

CodeRED’s cost to the town would be $3,750 a year; a flat fee that never increases. It is administered by Emergency Management for counties, but for towns that could come through the office of the Town Manager, the Fire Chief, the Police Chief, and town Utilities that would launch the alerts.

At its October 14 meeting, Council requested more information on the system, particularly what the concept is for the system that is administrated by Herford County EMS and whether the town could be conjoined with the county’s CodeRED system.

Town Manager Tony Hammond said he had spoken with Hertford County’s Emergency Management Director Chris Smith as well as County Manager Loria Williams.

Smith told Hammond the county’s plan has very limited minutes, and Williams stated that because of the limited minutes of service and the usage fee charged per minute, she was not interested in the county joining with any of its municipalities on the CodeRED system.

The cost, if it were administrated before the 2016-17 budget, could be paid in two ways according to Hammond.

“You could have a budget amendment out of the General Fund for a little over $3,400, or you could split it between 10 departments which would be about $370 per department per year,” Hammond said. “And that’s if you elected to start the system now rather than waiting until next July’s fiscal year.”

Councilman Charles Freeman suggested delaying a decision either until the 2016-17 budget or at least until it could be considered during the budget retreat. Freeman made a motion to do so, but it was not seconded.

After an extended pause, Mayor Brien Lassiter asked Council if the matter would thus be dead as an issue before the board, but Councilwoman Linda Blackburn spoke up.

“I know it’s only $3,400, but its $3,400 in the middle of a budget year, and we’ve lived for a very long time without it.” Blackburn stated.

Lassiter suggested it as a retreat item, but prior to the matter being put to a motion; Ahoskie Police Chief Troy Fitzhugh spoke of an instance when the system may have been useful.

The Chief mentioned working with County EMS on a call during the pursuit of a fugitive from Northside Behavioral Health, later successfully apprehended thanks to the cooperation of several branches of law enforcement from the Highway Patrol to Vidant Roanoke-Chowan Hospital Security, as well as local citizens.

“The Code RED would have given us a more valuable point to go out there and let the public know that this person was on the loose … but we were lucky to capture him,” Fitzhugh said. “While it would be useful for special events, I wanted to enlighten on what emergency situations it could do. In case of a robbery, description of suspects, lock your doors; these are the kinds of things (Code Red) would be good for.”

Councilman C. David Stackhouse expressed his support for Code Red; how it could be used to aid the youth, particularly with its versatility.

“Code Red can be used for anything,” Hammond reminded him. “It doesn’t have to be emergencies, but anything we choose to use it for it can be used, bands at Heritage Festival, Amber or Silver Alerts. It’s okay because it’s our system.”

Hammond also told Council if they initiate the system it has to be paid for this year, not in 2016.

“If you want me to put it in the FY (fiscal year) 2016-17 budget, then direct me to do so, and it’ll be in the budget,” Hammond acknowledged.

Councilwoman Elaine Myers said Council seemed to favor CodeRED, just not a timeline for implementation.

“I think the feeling is strong enough that you know you want it, it’s just a matter of how to pay for it and I think we need to direct it be done in the next budget and it would not be a forgotten item, but it would be in the agenda and on the go,” Myers said.

Stackhouse then made a motion that the Town Manager put CodeRED for the town of Ahoskie in the town’s budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year. The motion was seconded by Myers and it passed unanimously.