Fulton County 9-1-1 service to be upgraded; grant awarded for sports complex
Fulton County Judge Charles Willett at the Dec. 11 Quorum Court meeting announced some exciting changes coming to the county in the new year.
Willett said he and 9-1-1 coordinator David Keck have organized a plan that will allow the county to receive enhanced 9-1-1 computer equipment for free.
The county has been shopping for ways to update the current 9-1-1 system, according to Willett. "At one time we were excited to find a deal that would only cost the county $130,000, but the court turned that down because of costs," he said.
In November Willett and Keck met with David Carter from AT&T and Carmen Bryant, administrator of the Commercial Mobile Radio Service Board. Keck said with Carter's and Bryant's assistance, they were able to organize a plan that worked for the county.
"Fulton County is 1 of 5 remaining counties in Arkansas that cannot transmit wireless calls over the 9-1-1 network," Carmen said. "Land-line phones alone cannot support the system; the CMRS helps counties defray the cost of this needed technology.
The county will receive the new system on a five-year lease. The enhanced capabilities will allow for better and more efficient service, according to Keck.
"Our current system can only detect the location of land- line calls. The new system will be able to pinpoint the area that a cellular call comes from," he said.
"We're very lucky. Instead of having to manually search for the area on a map, the location will appear on a map in front of them (dispatchers)," Keck said. "This will help police, ambulance and fire departments serve better."
Willett said that not only will the system be free and helpful in better serving the county, but the enhanced 9-1-1 equipment will also generate revenue.
"With the county's current 9-1-1 computer system, we receive 50 cents from every land-line call," Willett said. "With this we'll now be able to collect charges for cellular calls too."
Willett said that with this additional charge the county will receive about $1,900 of extra revenue every quarter.
After the five-year lease is up, the county will have the option to purchase the equipment; however, Keck said Fulton County would most likely return the system.
"It's like any other computer system -- technology is constantly being improved and computers become obsolete," Keck said. "But throughout the five years, the manufacturers will keep it updated as we go. This is a great deal."
Willett said he expects the new 9-1-1 equipment to be operational by early next year.
In addition to the enhanced 9-1-1 equipment, Willett also announced that Fulton County has been awarded a grant for $100,000 from the state's Department of Parks and Tourism.
This money will be used to purchase land and develop playgrounds, athletic facilities and picnic areas, according to the department's Grants Advisory Committee.
Willett said this will be an exciting addition to the county. "This will not only be a big asset for the children, but it will help economic development," Willett said. "This is a big plus for Fulton County."
Karen Coffman with the Salem Little League Association said this is especially exciting after having gone through the entire application process in 2005 and being denied. However, the Little League Association, Willett and Salem Mayor Gary Clayton began working together in May. They resubmitted a grant application in August, made a presentation to the parks and tourism board in November and received official approval Dec. 7.
Willett said he expects to receive the funds and close on the land purchase in March 2007. Once this is finalized, the county will begin the first phase, which includes a basketball court and picnic area, according to Willett.
"The sports complex will cover 25 acres and will be located just north of the (Fulton County) hospital across from the South Fork River," Willett said.
Coffman said the work will be done in stages and is estimated to take approximately four years.
The sports complex will include four baseball/softball fields, a basketball court, a skateboard ramp and a walking trail.
Coffman said that if by the end of the process, funds are available, the county will also look into building a tennis court and soccer field.
Though Fulton County is guaranteed the $100,000 grant, $62,500 will still need to be raised.
Coffman said Fulton County residents who are interested in helping can have a field named after someone or purchase a brick in the entrance walkway as a memorial to someone. Those interested can contact Coffman at the Fulton County Clerk's Office at 895-3310.
Those interested in giving direct donations to the sports complex can send contributions to P.O. Box 22, Salem, AR, 72576.
"This will have something for all ages and will benefit the county for years to come," Coffman said. "Anyone who can donate will be appreciated."
"A lot of time has already been put into this," Willett said. "But the work is just beginning -- even donating time and labor will help."