Commissioners authorize creation of emergency communications district


The Gregg County Commissioners Court became the 37th entity to approve a resolution in support of a Piney Woods 9-1-1 Regional Emergency Communications District.

The communications district would give local elected officials more control over how funds are used and allow more flexibility in allocating those funds and fixing confusing or incorrect 9-1-1 addresses.

Gregg County is part of the 9-1-1 emergency communications district operated by the East Texas Council of Governments, but under the authority of the state.

The separate district would allow ETCOG to have its own communications district separate from the state.

“My board, which is chaired by (Gregg County) Judge (Bill) Stoudt, a number of months ago after looking at this matter quite extensively, decided that local control in these matters is always the best option as opposed to state control, so we started along the pathway of doing what the legislation requires so we could establish that emergency communications district,” ETCOG Executive Director David Cleveland said during Monday’s Commissioners Court meeting.

The court unanimously approved the resolution authorizing the creation of the communications district by a vote of 4-0 with the Pct. 4 seat vacant until next week when Daryl Williams will step in to John Mathis’ term.

ETCOG would continue administering the same 9-1-1 program it has provided 10 of the 14 counties in its service area for the last 30 years.

The three benefits of establishing a separate emergency communications district are local control, more funds and more flexibility in how funds are used.

“We believe and our board believes that those individuals, like Judge Stoudt and others on our board that are local elected officials, are in a much better position to know what the needs of our citizens are and set the policy for the district,” Cleveland said about the additional local control.

As one of the state-mandated emergency communications districts, ETCOG has to submit a budget request in which it receives a portion of the 9-1-1 funds collected in the region. As its own Piney Woods Regional Emergency Communications District, ETCOG would get 100 percent of the funds collected instead of a portion.

The new district would also give ETCOG greater flexibility in determining how funds should be used to benefit the community. As an example, Cleveland said, ETCOG uses Homeland Security funds to pay for the CodeRed alert system because the state does not allow its communications districts to use 9-1-1 funds to support the service.

As its own district, though, ETCOG would be able to use 9-1-1 funds for CodeRed when the Homeland Security funds are exhausted.

The change will impact the county financially and will not affect taxpayers. The 9-1-1 system will still be in place to take all emergency calls made from a landline outside city limits and from cell phones that hit a tower in the county.

“The citizens, basically, they get a top-notch 9-1-1 system that’s there when you need it,” Cleveland said.

The equipment ETCOG has provided Gregg County is “state of the art,” Gregg County Sheriff Maxey Cerliano said. The equipment is replaced on a rotating schedule as it ages. That equipment includes the dispatch center, a public safety answering point and a recording system to document all radio traffic and incoming phone calls.

Kilgore operates its own emergency communications district as a home-rule city and therefore is not included in ETCOG’s coverage. Kilgore will not be affected if the Piney Woods Regional Emergency Communications District is established.

Camp County is the “hold back” county for ETCOG, meaning it will be the last to approve the resolution if the other 51 entities have approved their resolutions. The reason, Cleveland said, is because once Camp County approves the resolution, the communications district is established also.

Also during the Monday meeting, the court approved re-platting the Tempest Addition, phases 1 and 2, within The Bluffs at Southern Hills subdivision. The changes are to reconfigure unsold lots in the addition, Pct. 3 Commissioner Gary Boyd said.

The court also approved the release of collateral – worth a market value of $4,885,080.45 – and the authorization for the purchasing agent to advertise and request sealed bids for a 2018 pickup truck for Pct. 3.