By Charlene Sims, firstname.lastname@example.org
MOUND CITY – Linn County Information Technology (IT) Director Chris Martin brought information about a public notification system that the commissioners had requested.
At the commission meeting on Monday, Dec. 11, Martin said that he had looked at several systems but was recommending one from CivicPlus, Manhattan, Kan. He told the commissioners that the functionality of it will far exceed the commission’s intended goal.
“As I was listening to and watching their demonstration, I could see a lot of benefits to what their system was able to do,” said Martin.
He told the commissioners that it would be helpful to the county clerk, the election office and the treasurer’s office to notify people about upcoming elections, tax dates, and other events.
“It will allow you to geographically notify people as well,” said Martin. “The thing we want to stay away from, in my opinion, there are a lot of phrases they use like notification blindness. If you start getting so many notifications that you start ignoring them.”
Martin said that citizens could sign up and choose what options they wanted to receive.
Martin pointed out that Linn County already had a notification system that is provided by Homeland Security for free. That system goes through the county’s emergency management office and Everbridge.
He said that one works well but is provided as a regional asset. However, it doesn’t allow being able to set up groups and having county staff create notifications, so it doesn’t fit the county’s need well.
Martin stressed that he was not suggesting that the emergency system be replaced and that he had not yet talked with Randy Hegwald, the emergency management coordinator about this. But he did say that this new system could replace that with a program at an additional cost.
Commissioner Jason Hightower asked who would be putting notifications on the system.
Martin said that was the other nice part was that the county could have multiple people who are trained to do that.
“I felt like the polling features could be pretty powerful,” said Martin.
Commissioner Jim Johnson asked how you could tell if a person completing a poll was a Linn County resident. Martin said they would have had to sign up for the service but the people would not be vetted.
Hightower pointed out that it would not be a scientific study. It would just be asking a question and getting a response.
Martin said the cost of the system, if purchased by Dec. 22, was $1,000 off, making the yearly cost $4,200.
Hightower said he would think that a couple of people would be in charge and then have some content providers.
Martin agreed. He gave an example of using the geographic targeting to let people know when there was a boil order in a community.
Johnson said they had time to make their decision until next week.
At that point, Hegwald entered the conversation and offered that Everbridge could do target calls to cities at no cost to the county. He said that Everbridge allowed people to choose whether they would be notified by text message or cell phone not just in emergencies but for things like available trainings and road closures.
The commissioners decided to wait until next week to make a decision.