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Carroll County nets $2.5M upgrade to 911 system, seeks grant for election board

Carroll County’s 911 system will get a state-of-the-art upgrade thanks to a $2.5 million reimbursement from the Maryland Emergency Number Systems Board.

The Board of County Commissioners unanimously voted Thursday to accept more than $2,581,300 from the state board. The project includes 10 new phone work stations for dispatchers, plus hardware and software upgrades to the county’s existing system, said Scott Campbell, director of public safety for the county. He credits emergency communications manager Jack Brown with securing the funding after making a presentation to the numbers board, which unanimously approved the request.

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In Brown’s work with the numbers board, it became clear that the county 911 system was eligible for a “refresh,” which is offered by the numbers board every five years, Campbell said. The change will benefit the county’s two emergency communications centers.

“This is a huge amount of dollars here,” said Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1.

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Brown estimates the upgrade will take about two weeks from start to finish, though a start date wasn’t decided on as of Thursday. “By refreshing it on a recurring cycle we are maximizing our ability to keep the system” reliable, Campbell said after the meeting.

The emergency communications centers are also to benefit from federal coronavirus relief funding, which is being used to add offices, a shower, HVAC upgrades and more.

Board of Elections seeks funds

The 911 operation is not the only county body that is seeking some extra dollars. The Carroll County Board of Elections hopes to secure about $76,500 in funding from a national nonprofit.

The Center for Tech and Civic Life is offering $250,000 to local election boards across the country, said Debby Standiford, county grants manager. How much a jurisdiction is eligible for depends on its demographics. The nonprofit seeks to “directly help election offices administer safe and secure elections in November,” according to its website. Some of its funders include Facebook, Google and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

The state election board cannot apply on behalf of local election boards, so they were encouraged to apply on their own, according to Standiford. She said Katherine Berry, Carroll elections director, has a need for this funding.

“Her budget has grown in this [COVID-19] year for elections and could certainly use this money,” Standiford said.

The funding may be used for:

  • Ballot drop boxes
  • Personal protective equipment for staff, poll workers or voters
  • Poll worker recruitment, hazard pay or training
  • Temporary staffing
  • Vote-by-mail/absentee voting equipment or supplies
  • Election administration equipment

The commissioners at first hesitated to potentially accept funding from a new source, but county staff assured the board the grant was thoroughly vetted by the grants manager, county administrator and county attorney. Commissioner Ed Rothstein, R-District 5, quickly perused the nonprofit’s website and didn’t seem to find any concerns. Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, pointed out the county is not obligated to spend the grant, if awarded, on anything but supporting the election.

The commissioners unanimously voted to apply for and accept the grant, which has a deadline of Oct. 15.

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