OSWEGO — Labette County is working to join the federal Integrated Public Alert and Warning System.
Labette County commissioners on Monday approved a memorandum of agreement with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to join the federal emergency messaging network. The system works similar to and in concert with CodeRed, which sends out messages to subscribers to the free service (sign up through the county’s website, https://public.coderedweb.com/CNE/en-US/BF605748032D). CodeRed sends out weather alerts when storms threaten and can be used to target certain areas of the county for other messages, such as road closures. The system contacts users through text and voice messages and email.
911 Director Brandy Grassl visited with commissioners Monday about CodeRed and joining IPAWS.
Grassl said IPAWS will allow the county to broadcast alerts to anyone in the county, even to those traveling through the county. So if someone from Joplin was traveling through Labette County and an alert went out, that person could receive it because the system would broadcast information to cell towers and other services.
She’s received the necessary approvals to join the system, but needed the county commission to approve the memorandum of agreement. Now Grassl said she will have a year to complete an emergency operations plan on when and how the system would be used.
Once on the system, the county’s CodeRed system will work with IPAWS to broadcast messages.
The change will not cost the county anything.
“It would have been great to have last Monday. That’s really what sparked me,” Grassl said.
On Feb. 3, a resident in the state’s sexual predator treatment program at Parsons State Hospital and Training Center escaped from a van transporting him back to the Parsons campus after a job interview in Independence. Rodney Snodgrass, 58, was arrested more than 13 hours later while walking on K-47 in Neosho County. He is now facing charges in Labette County District Court.
Grassl said if Labette County had been part of IPAWS travelers on U.S. 400 in Labette County could have received notifications of Snodgrass’ escape.
She said 15 counties in Kansas are using IPAWS now.
In other matters, commissioners:
— Agreed to contract with ParCom in Parsons to change out phone lines in the sheriff’s office at the Labette County Judicial Center in Parsons. The county now pays AT&T $340 a month for those two phone lines and for internet service to a tablet used by the appraiser’s office. Adding the sheriff’s lines to existing phone service at the Judicial Center would only cost about $72 a month plus a one-time $220 fee for ParCom’s work and material. The appraiser’s office could add a tablet to the Verizon account for a similar fee to what they’ve been paying through AT&T.
— Heard that an analog repeater tied to the county’s law enforcement radio system is down in Chetopa. The repeater is used when officers are in areas that aren’t covered well by the county’s 800 megahertz radio system. Grassl didn’t know the cost of repairing it yet. A second repeater on the system used by Parsons police is working fine.
— Heard that TFMComm Inc. has tested the paging system in the county and found some repeaters that didn’t work and changed out coaxial cable and adjusted antennas on others. Within two days, coverage had improved in the system that worked sporadically before. TFMComm suggested changing to repeaters using UHF frequencies to improve coverage and this would require only two repeaters in the county. The company needs to create a map of the county to determine the best locations for the repeaters. The paging system is used by firefighters and ambulance service personnel to notify them of calls.
— Heard and signed the annual Noxious Weed Department report from Ralph George, Noxious Weeds director. The report is sent to the state annually. The county offers coupons to landowners to buy chemicals to fight noxious weeds on their properties. In 2019, the county issued $11,724.90 in coupons and only $8,504.55 were redeemed. The rainy days made spraying difficult, commissioners heard. The report shows that the department sprayed 22,287 acres for noxious weeks in 2019 and used 105.5 gallons of 2,4-D aminopyralid, 116.7 gallons of 2,4 D amine, 107.9 gallons of glyphosate and 161.8 gallons of triclopyr+fluoroxypyr. The most prevalent noxious weed is johnson grass, which was sprayed on 13,814 acres in the county. The next was Canada thistle, which was sprayed on 3,830 acres, then sericea lespedeza on 2,526 acres and musk thistle on 2,050 acres. George said the musk thistle rosettes are showing up now, which is when the weed sprouts up from the ground. The county also sent out 82 warning letters last year for landowners with noxious weeds on their properties.
— Met in closed session for 20 minutes with County Counselor Brian Johnson to discuss attorney-client privileged information.