City Council Approves New Emergency Alert System

By Will McClure


The Stamford City Council held a public hearing last Tuesday, September 8, to discuss several items of interest, specifically to hear a representative from the CodeRED emergency alert service and discuss possible actions on approving the service. All council members were present for the meeting as Mayor Johnny Anders called the meeting to order. After District 1 Councilmember Melinda Smith delivered the invocation and District 2 Councilmember Pam Riether led the Pledge of Allegiance, the council moved into their scheduled, regular agenda. The council briefly discussed the 2015-2016 tax rate, which will not include the process on the water bond which no spending would occur for at least two years, before announcing that there would be another public hearing the following Friday, September 11 and then one final hearing and vote for adoption on September 21.

After unanimous approval of the minutes from the August 17 and 25 meetings, Mike Burton, representative of the CodeRED emergency alert service, gave a presentation on his company’s service and how it would help the City of Stamford.

CodeRED is a mass notification service that allows city officials to send out messages to the community for emergencies such as tornado warnings to notifications about upcoming public hearings. Burton noted that the service covers a wide range of ways to get information to customers, whether the customer uses social media, text messaging, a phone app or even a land line, CodeRED is designed to get alerts to the community in a timely matter. Burton pointed out that the service, which is currently in 87 counties, 450 communities and four councils of government, can be completely controlled by anyone with access and would only send out messages to a specific demographic. In other words, if there were to be a water pipe burst that would only affect three blocks, an alert can be sent out to just those three blocks instead of the entire community. In addition, CodeRED features a precise weather warning system that will automatically send phone messages to citizens in the area. Burton pointed out that while other systems would continually send out messages every time a storm changes path or even moves closer, the CodeRED system is designed to not send multiple messages and would only send one message to those in the path of the storm. If the storm were to change to a tornado warning or a flash flood, then the system would send another message with the updated information. In addition, the alerts would only go to users in the storm’s path instead of the entire community where many may not even be affected. Burton also pointed out that if a user were to miss an emergency alert phone call, the person could easily call back the number and hear the exact recorded message without having to call the police station, city hall, etc. Those that can send out alerts can do so from anywhere they have internet access or from the specific smart phone app instead of getting to City Hall in time to send the alert.

Users can even customize what alerts they receive with the service. After signing up and putting in the information, users can elect to opt out of non-emergency alerts such as announcements for public hearings. They can also opt out of emergency alerts, but would need to go to City Hall and formally opt out in writing for legal purposes. After Burton finished his presentation, he thanked the council for their time while the council decided to approve the implementation of the CodeRED service, with City Manager Alan Plumlee handling negotiations with Mr. Burton. After the approval of Ordinance 892, which calls for the appropriation of funds for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, the council moved on to their consent agenda which considered bid properties and lake lot leases.

The board briefly discussed all items on the agenda and approved all items with the exception of the bid property on Lots 7 and 8 and East 24’ of Lot 9, Block 30, which is currently being overseen by Councilmember James Decker. With Decker abstaining from the vote, all other members chose to approve the bid on the property to close the agenda for the evening.

The hearing ended with City Manager Alan Plumlee giving a brief report on the cleanup day at Washington Park on Saturday, September 12 from 8-12 and wanted all citizens to attend to help clean up Stamford. He also mentioned the ongoing grant process where he will be traveling to Austin to continue the process. With no other items on the agenda, the council adjourned at 6:28 pm, but would hold a special public hearing the following Friday, September 11.

 The brief hearing on Friday featured citizens addressing the council, minus Councilmember James Decker and City Attorney Raymond Hollabaugh, about the raise in the tax rate for the fiscal year 2015-2016. The rate, which will rise to .9250 cents per $100 value of property, would go to helping fund projects in Stamford. Citizens wanted to know if the funds would go to helping repave the streets and help “reclaim Stamford,” with each council member expressing their concerns over the state of Stamford and how it is up to the citizens to do their parts. The roads would be addressed once water pipes are replaced and citizens can help keep Stamford beautiful by pitching in to help keep it clean. After the citizens present addressed the council, Mayor Johnny Anders closed the session which led to the council briefly discussing, and approving, a zone change, the November elections and Plumlee overseeing the operations of the VIP center. With no other business to conduct, Anders adjourned the meeting at 1:32 pm.

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