Andalusia Star News

Soon, the Andalusia Police Department’s dispatcher will be able to simultaneously listen to a caller, see the caller’s location on a map, and determine which officer could respond quickly, based on the officer’s current location.

The capability will come with the help of computer aided dispatch software, which the council agreed Tuesday night to purchase. The software will cost $63,640, which is being partially offset by a $24,000 grant the department recently received from ADECA.

Danny McKinley, who sold the software to the APD, was on hand to answer questions, and said Covington County E911 and the Covington County Sheriff’s Department also is considering the software.

“If they go with this, you would be able to transfer cad to cad,” he said. “The same screen can be seen and transferred to other agencies.”

Chief Paul Hudson said the system also will shorten the response times for calls for service, and provide communications officers with important information to provide to the officers including, call history as related to location, similar incidents or active warrants for service on all calls for service dispatched by the Andalusia Police Department.

Andalusia Star News

Andalusia Star News

Small Idaho city added fiber as municipal utility

In much the same way that economic development and prosperity followed the availability of electricity in the 20th Century, development today is correlated to the availability of broadband

Broadband, also referred to as high-speed Internet, is telecommunications that provide a variety of channels of data over a single communication medium. And the City of Andalusia’s leaders are considering adding broadband to the utilities offered by the municipality.

“I am of the opinion it may be on our shoulders to see that the infrastructure is in place,” Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson told council members Tuesday night. The mayor made his comments before having council members review a 19-minute video chronicling the efforts of Ammon, Idaho, to do just that.

The city of more than 15,000 people “is taking its destiny in its own hands,” the mayor said. The city installed broadband infrastructure, and sold its excess capacity. It has built its network slowly, and has no debt associated with the infrastructure.

Ammon is using a Local Improvement District (LID) approach to connect premises to the infrastructure. The city determines the boundaries of where the project will occur and property owners have the opportunity at the beginning of the process to pay for connecting to the network by attaching the cost over 20 years to their property. If property owners don’t take advantage of the opportunity during this window of time and decide later to connect, they must pay the estimated $3,000 – $5,000 out of pocket.

In the video viewed by the council and available online, Ammon’s Bruce Patterson, technology director, explained that the network enhanced public safety, which is in the middle of the city’s charter, provided more choices for internet for home owners; and enhanced business development.

“This is being replicated all over America,” Johnson said Tuesday. “The video frames up the issues for you. This would be a long, long thing, and I’m not suggesting we do it now. I am suggesting it is something we start thinking about.”

Two weeks ago, the mayor put Mediacom, one of Andalusia’s major internet service providers, on notice, citing complaints from local businesses about broadband service. The city might need to become an Internet provider, the mayor said, for the good of local businesses.

““This city will not grow or attract businesses and industries that we want here unless they can be assured the broadband and television services that are necessary to run a business,” he said. “A lot of businesses, if they don’t have broadband, it shuts their business down. It’s a serious thing.”

Additional information is available at muninetworks.org or nextcenturycities.org.

Andalusia Star News

Andalusia Star News

The Andalusia City Council on Tuesday finalized its agreement with Milky Moo’s to occupy the bottom floor of the Timmerman building on the Court Square.

Milky Moo’s operates locations in Enterprise, Ozark and Headland.

While their specialty is ice cream, the business also offers cupcakes, cakes, ice cream cakes, candies, soups, sandwiches, salads, wraps and hotdogs.

City Clerk John Thompson said the city has been working with the owner on the project for more than a year.

The terms of the lease call for Milky Moo’s to invest $100,000 in the building. In return, it will not have a lease payment the first year, then will begin paying rent that will increase each year for several years.

“If this lease goes to term, we will pay for the building with this one lease,” Thompson said.

The city acquired the building, also known as the First National Bank building, about Jan. 1, 2017. The city acquired the building for $260,00, plus $1,500 in closing costs. The Estep Foundation contributed $100,000 toward the purchase.

Andalusia Star News

Andalusia Star News

The Andalusia City Council on Tuesday adopted an ordinance authorizing a $7.6 million bond issue for construction projects at Andalusia High School. The bond deal is expected to be finalized in the next 10 days.

In January, the city board of education approved a $9.3 million contract with Wyatt Sasser Construction for renovations at the stadium and auditorium. The contract represents a base bid. If all of the proposed project is done, it is expected to cost $12.245 million.

The school board has set aside $500,000 of its proceeds from a city-wide education sales tax in fiscal years 2016, 2017 and 2018. Rep. Mike Jones has secured $1.25 million in state funds, and the Public Education Building Authority has raised a minimum of $500,000 in private monies for the project.

With a $7 million bond, the system has $10.25 million for the project. The remaining estimated $1.99 million will be taken from reserve funds.

Andalusia Star News

Andalusia Star News

On Tuesday, Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson put local cable franchisee Mediacom on notice: If their service doesn’t get better, the City of Andalusia will compete against them by investing in infrastructure and providing its own broadband services.

“(Mediacom) operate(s) here because we let them,” Johnson said, referring to the franchise agreement the company has with the city. “As a city government we can’t tell them or make them do anything. But we can locate someone who is an expert on broadband and Internet who can tell us what we can do.”

Specifically, the mayor said, he has been gathering information about how the City of Opelika addressed the exact same issue.

Opelika Power Services began offering its network to local businesses summer 2014, according to archives of the Opelika-Auburn News.

In Opelika, all residents and businesses now have access to high-speed Internet, cable TV and telecommunication services.

Opelika is the only municipality in the state of Alabama that owns and operates a 100 percent fiber network. The community-owned power company, which began in 1911, offers television, telephone and Internet throughout Opelika. The network is the only GIG network in Alabama offering services to both residential and commercial customers.

“Gig City” refers to one-gigabit-per-second fiber internet service provided through Opelika Power Services’, OPS, city-owned fiber-optic cable. This cable allows Internet uploading and downloading speeds to be recognizably faster than the national connection average of 6.7 megabit-per-second.

According to Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller, who spearheaded the initiative, the city had three goals: to upgrade its electrical grid, provide more broadband choices for residents and businesses and further strengthen its economic development platform to attract new businesses and employment opportunities.

And that’s precisely why Johnson said Andalusia should consider making a similar move.

“This city will not grow or attract businesses and industries that we want here unless they can be assured the broadband and television services that are necessary to run a business,” he said. “A lot of businesses, if they don’t have broadband, it shuts their business down. It’s a serious thing.”

The city’s utilities department could easily become a broadband provider, he said.

Andalusia Star News