HARRISON CO., Ind. (WHAS11) — Less than a week after a tornado touched down on July 20, there is a possible change in the wind in Harrison County. There is a new push to fund Everbridge, the emergency alert system which county council members de-funded 11 days before the storm.
“Maybe we made a mistake,” District 1 Councilman Kyle Nix said during Monday night’s meeting. Although he said he had initial reservations, Nix was one of 3 members outnumbered in the vote to defund the program.
“I was one of the people who voted against it,” District 2 Councilman Gary Davis explained, “Our frustration [was] we were asking for an expansion in the number of people registered. We haven’t progressed as rapidly as I think we should to get those people signed on.”
Davis and at-large Councilman Gary Byrne criticized the progress of the system led by Emergency Management Director Greg Reas, who said 11,700 residents had signed up for the system.
At Monday’s meeting, and during a phone call Tuesday, Byrne questioned the accuracy of the registration numbers and said he was frustrated more people had not signed up in the programs 2 years.
Davis said there are 40,000 residents, meaning, if Reas’ numbers are correct, only about 29% of residents were signed up for the alerts.
Reas, however, said he was working with his boss, County Commissioner Kenny Saulman to develop a new plan to address the concerns of the council members and get a school district, hospitals and perhaps another county to buy into the alert system which provides information on several emergency situations in addition to severe weather.
“I don’t apologize for the vote,” Byrne said Monday night. Tuesday afternoon, he said he would be willing to support the system if Reas could back up and confirm his data with information for the council.
Residents who attended Monday’s meeting voiced their anger at council members for their July 9 vote.
“How can you put a price on someone’s life,” Sylvia Hatcher asked rhetorically, “You can’t.”
“I never had a problem with the system itself, our problem was the way it was implemented and being used,” Davis added.
Reas and Saulman said Tuesday they believed a plan would be in place by the next County Commissioners meeting August 6. Council members said they believed they would be in a position to approve funding for Everbridge at the next council meeting August 13.