Future of E-911 discussed
By Carol McLeod
Jefferson County officials and the officials of the cities within the county have formed an advisory board in an effort to meet requirements mandated by the Federal Communications Commission for E-911 communications to go to a narrowband format by Jan. 1, 2013.
The board held its first meeting Thursday, Nov. 4, at the Jefferson County commission office in Louisville. Members selected Robert Chalker as chairman, Tracy Neal as vice chairman and Wayne Davis as secretary.
Chalker is an investigator with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and was appointed to the board to represent the JCSO.
Neal is a volunteer firefighter with the Wrens Fire Department and a part-time police officer with Wrens Police Department. Neal also is the 911 director of McDuffie County
Davis is a Jefferson County Commissioner and is a former Wrens Fire Department Chief. Currently, he is the public works director for Wrens.
Other members are Jefferson County Commission Chairman William Rabun, Stapleton Fire Department Chief Tony Kelly, Avera Mayor Tommy Sheppard who is also a firefighter, Louisville Police Chief Jimmy Miller, Bartow Councilman and Fire Department Chief Billy Neal, Wadley Police Chief Wesley Lewis, Gold Cross Communications representative Earl Collins and Jefferson County EMA Director and Louisville Fire Department Chief Lamar Baxley.
Collins is also a retired radio technician, Chalker said.
A Georgia law, OCGA 46-5-136, requires local governments to establish a board such as this to help the local government with developing 9-1-1 system requirements, among other things.
“The goal of this board is to create a good communications system for this county,” Jefferson County Administrator Paul Bryan said in an interview last week.
The board discussed several items, including whether to recommend moving the E-911 system from the JCSO. The board members agreed to inventory communications equipment currently in use, accepted a set of bylaws and discussed a Motorola presentation in Columbia County on this issue.
“My only concern is that we get the very best equipment for the money we put into it for the citizens,” Davis said. “We are all here representing Jefferson County.”
“We need something that’s cost effective, dependable and serviceable,” Bryan said.
“You don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” Neal said. “Upgrade what you have. I’d say upgrade it.”
Neal said the county would have to apply to the FCC to update its licenses.
“Do that now,” he said, adding the cost is $120 a call sign and there are eight or 10 that would need to be changed.
In an interview Friday, Nov 5, Chalker said his main concern is the safety of the public safety people.
“That’s the bottom line,” he said. “Being able to communicate, with the fire departments, EMS, the police departments, the sheriff’s office and so forth. It’s a law that we’ve got to do this; because, we can’t afford not to do it. Because someone could get hurt. And no amount of money is worth that.”
Chalker said the board’s purpose is to find a way to effectively and efficiently upgrade all public safety communications in the county.
“To provide safety to public safety professionals, which will in turn benefit the citizens of Jefferson County,” he said. “Safety – that’s the number one priority.”
Chalker said the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, focused attention on the problems that can arise when communications break down.
“That’s what got the FCC on the ball,” he said. “Because nobody could talk to anybody up there. When they started doing the critique, they realized one main problem was everyone was all on different channels and systems. They said, ‘We need to fix that,’ and they started to address it.”
Chalker said he thought the meeting went all right.
“We need to buckle down,” he said. “At the next meeting, we need to focus on making the communication system cover this county and converting the communications system to a narrow band and digital system to comply with the government mandate in the most efficient, economical way,” he said.
Neal addressed the status of this move in Glascock County, whose system is operated by McDuffie County where Neal is 911 director.
"They’re narrowband and their repeaters are digital capable. They’re in narrowband compliance,” he said.
Neal said Glascock County’s applications to the FCC for the licenses have been submitted.
The next meeting of Jefferson County’s E-911 advisory board is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 1, at 6 p.m. at the commissioners meeting room at the commission office in Louisville.
Rockin’ half time
By Bonnie K. Sargent
Friday nights during halftime, the Jefferson County High School football players leave the field to rest and discuss their game plan with their coaches.
However, two of the Warriors toss their helmets aside, grab their guitars and go out onto the field to play with the JCHS marching band.
Eric Perdue, of Matthews, and Corey Norton, of Wrens, are both seniors in high school. The boys say they are finally achieving the goal they have had since their freshman year, which is to play their guitars with the school’s band.
“I’ve been playing with the band since 6th grade, playing saxophone,” said Perdue. “We’ve been doing band and football all four years of high school, but normally we march with normal marching instruments.”
“We’re the only ones from our region to be in both band and football,” said Norton, adding he also did baseball and band during baseball season.
Norton plays bass guitar. Perdue plays the electric guitar.
This year, the JCHS marching band is paying tribute to the rock band Bon Jovi and are playing three of their songs during halftime, “You Give Love a Bad Name,” “Wanted Dead or Alive,” and “Livin’ on a Prayer.”
“It was one of the shows we had to choose from,” said Perdue, “It had the most votes. Everyone voted, though the band director got the final decision.”
Perdue and Norton both said they spent the entire summer learning to play the three songs for the band.
“We already knew the actual songs, just adjusting to the new ones was hard,” said Norton.
“We practiced together whenever we got free time,” added Perdue.
Norton said the most challenging part of playing with the school’s marching band was the music that had different keys from the real song.
“There was no written guitar part for the band so I had to transpose some from the originals and other instruments,” said Perdue.
The band recently attended the Sound of Silver marching invitational on Saturday, Oct. 16, in Waycross. The marching invitational is both a festival and a competition for small to medium size bands. Norton and Perdue attended the festival with the band and played their part in the Bon Jovi songs.
While the band did not place in the competition, they did receive four superior ratings in all four categories in the festival.
“I feel they enhance the overall sound quality,” said Zavaien McBride, the band captain.
“I love their style, their showmanship and their skill. I think they help the whole rock and roll sound of the show and we’re glad to have them,” he said.
“Overall, we just enjoy music and sports and we were determined to put in the work to experience both,” said Perdue.
STC set to merge with Heart of Georgia
By Carol McLeod
The state board that oversees the Technical College System of Georgia today endorsed Commissioner Ron Jackson’s decision to begin the process to merge Heart of Georgia Technical College and Sandersville Technical College.
The merger is expected to be completed by July 1, 2011.
Dr. Lloyd Horadan, president of Sandersville Technical College, said in an interview last week that work on the merger has already started.
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“We’re looking at the accreditation application and we’ve begun working on that,” he said.
The council on occupational accreditation, which is headquartered in Atlanta, is an accrediting agency for two-year technical colleges, Horadan said.
“And they happen to be ours, they’re our pre-existing,” he said. “At present, we’re working at developing the organization chart to the assignment of personnel that will staff the key jobs in our college. We’re excited about what the opportunities present for the people of the area because it will allow us to offer more jobs and more programs.”
This proposed merger will afford STC and HGTC the opportunity to expand program offerings and services, grow enrollment and cultivate new relationships in the expanded service delivery area, representatives of the TCSG stated in a press release.
“It’s still very, very open. But a couple of areas that we have looked at are programs that are related to the electrical generation industry,” Horadan said.
“In the baseline structure of small, technical colleges, they offer many of the same programs. That is true in the case of Sandersville Tech and Heart of Georgia. However, when smaller schools look to expand, very often there are not sufficient students or demand for a full time program. In this case, by merging the two institutions, we’ll be able to create enough demand and enrollment to create full time programs where before there was not enough demand. An example of this might be a paramedic program,” he said.
Once the merger is complete, students will see very little change in the daily operations of the campuses. No buildings or facilities will be closed. There will be no changes to the colleges’ other programs, like adult education, continuing education and customized workforce training, the press release stated.
Horadan said an 11-county contest has been held asking people to make suggestions for a new name once the colleges have merged. He said they had received 650 as of Thursday, Nov. 4, at 5 p.m.
Both colleges appointed members to a naming committee, he said.
“They will review the recommended or suggested names,” Horadan said. “They in turn will make a recommendation of three names to the combined boards of both colleges.”
Horadan said the naming committee will make its recommendation Thursday, Nov. 18. The boards are expected to decide Monday, Nov. 22, during a combined board meeting, he said.
The state board for the TCSG will have to approve the name, Horadan said, adding that board’s next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 2.
Jackson said he is working closely with the boards of directors of both colleges to ensure that this merger is in the very best interest of the students and communities served by both of these outstanding institutions.
“This merger will enable us to make much more efficient use of the education and training resources at both colleges,” he said.
“We are pleased to be joining forces with an institution that shares the same student-centered vision, focus on the highest ideals of service to the community, work ethic and business sense,” Horadan said.
“We are absolutely committed to making this transition as smooth as possible for our students and the employees of both colleges,” he said.
“While both colleges face a number of challenges to complete this merger in nine months’ time while also converting from a quarter to semester academic calendar, our students will still find the same high quality, relevant technical training that will prepare them to enter today’s highly-skilled workforce,” Horadan said.
“HGTC is delighted to be teaming up with Sandersville Technical College. We look forward to becoming a unified college and increasing program offerings and services, growing enrollment, building a greater workforce development base and cultivating new relationships in our expanded service delivery area,” said Heart of Georgia Technical College Interim President Beth Crumpton.
Over the past two years, the TCSG has merged 13 of its colleges into six:
TCSG colleges offer more than 600 certificate, diploma and degree programs. The TCSG also manages the state’s adult education and GED testing programs, as well as the internationally recognized Quick Start workforce training program for business and industry.