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Cape County moves forward with text-to-911

Cape Girardeau County is six to eight months away from having 911 texting capabilities. Once implement-ed, people in the county will be able to send texts directly to 911 dispatchers containing their location and the type of help they need.

Emergency Management Director Mark Winkler presented a project agreement to move forward with the text-to-911 program to the County Commission on Aug. 13. The Commission approved the agreement, as well as a $9,140 matching grant with the Missouri 911 Service Board to help fund the project.

Winkler said one of the reasons it will take six to eight months for the project to be operational will be working with the various cell phone carriers to get it implemented.

The text-to-911 service will help those who are deaf or hard of hearing, as well as those who don’t have a strong enough cell phone signal for a voice call to go through or are unable to speak to a 911 operator safely.

“If someone is in a compromised situation, and they can’t reach the phone and call 911, but they can use their phone to text, this will be a way that we could find out who’s in danger and get some help to them immediately,” Winkler said.

Texting to 911 is not available in most areas. Only 29 counties in Missouri currently have active text-to-911 systems, including Stoddard County. Cape Girardeau County is now among the nine counties where 911 texting capabilities are currently pending, according to the Missouri 911 Service Board.

In other action:

• The commission approved more CARES Act funding, including $127,785 to install bipolar needlepoint ionization air filtration units in five county buildings. The units will be installed at the new courthouse, the sheriff’s office, the county jail, the Administrative Building and the Archive Center.

Commissioner Paul Koeper said the units should help combat virus and dust spread in those buildings. He added that it would be hard to install the same system at the old courthouse and they would look into a long-range project to help the heating and air conditioning at that location.

The Commission also approved new funding to Saxony Lutheran High School ($21,431), Immaculate Conception School ($19,581), Oak Ridge School District ($29,752), Nell Holcomb R-4 School District ($43,251), Trinity Lutheran School ($162,770), St. Paul Lutheran School ($279,825) and Prodigy Leadership Academy ($38,093). The Commission amended previously approved funding to St. Mary School that now totals $38,511.

Koeper said that the County has allocated more than 20 percent of the County’s $9,253,142 CARES Act funding to area schools. “It’s a good way to spend money,” he said. Koeper added that most of the school requests have already been approved, with a request from Eagle Ridge Christian School and additional funding to the Jackson R-2 School District remaining to be approved.

The County has also allocated new funding to the City of Jackson ($24,149), Riverside Regional Library ($11,436), Cape Girardeau Public Library ($3,770) and attorneys Ellis, Ellis, Hammons & Johnson ($280).

The Commission has amended previously approved funding for the City of Cape Girardeau, which now totals $275,960. That total includes the $181,035 for Stryker LUCAS chest compression units that were distributed to fire departments throughout the county.

The County has approved over $3 million in CARES Act funding so far and has until April 2021 to finish allocating the federal funds. The funds must be used for necessary expenditures that were incurred due to the COVID-19 public health  between March 1 and Dec. 30.

• Cape Girardeau County will now collect city taxes for residents in the county who also live within Scott City. Collector Barb Gholson said Scott City was the last city within the county that the County didn’t collect their taxes. Scott City officials have signed the same agreement as the other cities within the county.

Gholson added that there are only about 10 parcels of land in Scott City that are part of Cape Girardeau County.

• The County will hold a public hearing on the proposed property tax rates at 9 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 27, at the former County Courthouse in Jackson.

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past four years. He can be reached at cbjedit@socket.net.

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