County could purchase building Tuesday|[2/18/06]

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 20, 2006

Labor and material costs will push the county’s purchase price of the former Southern Printing building to $230,000, with supervisors ready to state their intentions as early as the regular board meeting Tuesday.

The price represents an estimate by city buildings and grounds inspector Johnny Puckett of $5,000 to reflect the city’s costs for making improvements to the structure.

The 10,000-square-foot building at First North and Clay streets will be used as storage space for new touch-screen voting machines and house new headquarters for the E-911 Dispatch Center.

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At an informal meeting Thursday, supervisors advised care in how their intentions were spelled out, particulary in regard to the time frame for moving in the machines and dispatch equipment.

&#8220With E-911, delivery dates and other things are yet to be determined,” District 5 Supervisor Richard George said.

As for the voting machines, 91 state-allocated touch-screen machines arrived Tuesday and are temporarily housed in the county-owned Old Justice Court building at Farmer and Grove streets.

The county will have to purchase 53 more to maintain a presence of 138 machines at 22 polling stations with six spares.

Partial reimbursement for the additional machines is possible through the federal Help America Vote Act, with an extra $6 million to be dispersed among the 77 participating counties to purchase extra machines if legislation passed by the Senate Monday is signed by the governor.

E-911 Dispatch director Geoffrey Greetham addressed the board at the meeting, updating members on projected costs of revamping the wiring inside the building to fit the center’s needs.

Calling the electrical work involved with a new radio system &#8220the real headache,” Greetham told the board those costs will likely approach $100,000.

The cost is relative to technical needs being dictated by Motorola, the system manufacturer.

The system must be connected to its own circuit apart from other equipment to back up manufacturer guarantees against system failures due to lightning strikes and power shortages, Greetham said.

Another challenge is time, Greetham said, as the premium version of the system is available only until April. The cost estimate Greetham presented to supervisors put it at $394,000, with $100,000 already budgeted for.

Responding to a question from District 2 Supervisor William Banks about the availability of other versions of the system, Greetham emphasized the need to stick with the updated version.

&#8220It’s like the difference between Windows 98 and Windows 2000,” Greetham said.

The total technology upgrade to E-911 is pegged at $800,000 and is aimed at improving the center’s ability to locate emergency calls and dispatch the proper authorities faster.

In other business, the board heard from county administrator John Smith on possible models being considered for written evaluations for county employees.

Models Smith has reviewed are at the University of Alabama, California State University at Northridge and Jackson Public Schools.

The one in use at Alabama appears to be the simplest, five-point grading system and emphasizes work habits and communication skills, Smith said.

Smith will consult with city human resources director Lamar Horton on how the city implemented its evaluation system, one that Smith said evolved through the years and has improved since its inception in the mid-1990s.

However, Smith warned that any evaluations should not be used solely &#8220as a mechanism for firing.” Before any such system is in place in the county, employees and their supervisors, excluding elected officials, would be informed as to what the evaluation will focus.

The role of the board president at regular meetings also was discussed, with the central issue being the ability of the president to make motions.

The custom of past boards was for other board members to make and second motions. That custom was not followed at the Feb. 6 meeting, when District 4 Supervisor and board president Carl Flanders offered a motion endorsing a previous draft of an organizational chart for county government.

After several exchanges between Flanders and other board members on the subject, the board reached what was termed a &#8220gentleman’s agreement” that the president would not make or second motions.

A suggestion was also made by District 3 Supervisor Charles Selmon to take better advantage of the seldom-used discussion period that follows a seconded motion at the board’s regular public meetings.