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County buys 15 message boards for roads, agencies

By Michael Wetzel

For the Enquirer


Fifteen customized message board signs – aimed at making roads safer and providing motorists with information – should arrive in Morgan County by April, according to the county’s safety coordinator.

This past week the Morgan County Commission approved spending about $186,000 for the battery-operated signs. The purchase includes eight message boards for the four district shops, with funds from each district’s road and bridge fund covering their $99,248 cost.

The Morgan County Health Department will receive five message boards, and the $62,030 cost will be picked up by a state community development COVID grant.

“Our signs will be used to notify folks of where and when to go for assistance related to outbreaks, such as what we’re having with COVID,” said Judy Smith, administrator of the Northern District of the Alabama Department of Public Health. “Right now, we’re using loaners from the Emergency Management Agency and other agencies.”

Two message boards are for the county EMA, which will cover the $24,812 cost with money from the Tennessee Valley Authority.

The high-tech customized message boards are being purchased from K&K Systems in Tupelo, Miss.

Using the Buyboard purchasing cooperative through the state, the county did not need to seek bids for the purchase, Commission Chairman Ray Long explained.

“These signs are for the safety of not just our citizens but our employees,” Long said.

District 2 Commissioner Randy Vest said the cost of technology has come down on some items to make the boards affordable now.

“Sometimes the current signs we use get blown down by the wind or knocked over, and cars might be driving up fast on a road crew,” Vest said. “These signs will be safer for the motorists and our guys out working. I think it was a wise purchase for us.”

Jonathan Warner, the county safety coordinator who spearheaded the project, said EMA message boards will be mainly for TVA reception centers in the county.

“In the event of an accident at Browns Ferry, the public will be directed to go to the two designated centers in Priceville and Hartselle,” Warner said. “They will be used to alert drivers to the centers for processing.”

He said Hartselle Fire & Rescue and Priceville Fire Department will store the signs when not in use.

The EMA has agreed to store the health department’s message boards when necessary.

Warner said the boards will be slightly smaller than the 12-by-7-foot message boards used by the state highway department. “Since our boards will be used on highways and streets with less traffic, and the vehicles will be traveling at lower speeds, our boards will be roughly 8-feet by 5-feet,” he said.

K&K said the LED message boards, visible up to 1 mile away, can display graphics and text with 1-foot-high characters.

The boards will come with 5-foot trailers and are powered by battery and/or solar power, the company said.

In other business Tuesday, the commission:

  • Approved Probate Judge Greg Cain to hire a probate clerk II at $31,262 a year. The position came open after chief probate clerk Kate Terry was appointed by Gov. Kay Ivey this past week to fill the vacant license commissioner position. Christie Tapscott was moved into the chief probate clerk position with an annual salary at $63,024. Lauri Boardman was promoted to deputy chief probate clerk at $51,730 a year.
  • Approved the sales tax office to fill a data entry clerk position with a starting salary of $28,475.
  • Approved employee mileage reimbursement of 58.5 cents per mile for 2022. That amount is up from 56 cents per mile in 2021. The fee is established by the state department of finance.
  • Adopted a resolution to authorize the chairman to execute the online grant acceptance of the cooperative agreement with the state Homeland Security Grant program and sub-recipient as Decatur Fire & Rescue for $23,750.