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City eyes radio equipment purchase

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By LPR Staff
Editor/POST-REGISTER

In an era where many believe communication to be the key to public protection, and where technology is the key to communication, the City of Lockhart took a giant step forward on Tuesday evening.
The Lockhart City Council, after much discussion about funding, decided to apply for participation in a Community Oriented Pol

icing Services (COPS) grant program with the City of Austin, which will help provide for upgraded radios and communication systems throughout the city.
“One of the things we’ve been looking at for several years is the radio controller,” Mayor James “Jimmy” Bertram reminded the council. “We are living on borrowed time as it is, and pretty soon, Motorola is going to stop supporting it.”
If the City of Lockhart receives a grant award, a portion of the $1.775 million grant will be earmarked for replacing the controller.
Last week, Caldwell County, who shares some radio frequencies and equipment with the City of Lockhart, opted not to participate in the COPS program, citing a lack of funds to pay the required grant match. However the County may still incur some expense, as when the City of Lockhart changes radio systems, the County will have to reprogram their radios, as well.
“There are things we can do about that, though,” said Aaron Slaughter, the City’s communication and radio expert. “I have the software to reprogram almost every, if not every radio the County has, so there shouldn’t be much real inconvenience to the end user.”
Despite some argument about the cost of the grant match and the lack of independent research councilmembers were able to complete, the measure, if it was to pass, had to pass on Tuesday evening. The City of Austin required a letter of commitment by Monday, June 25.
Initially, City Manager Vance Rodgers recommended a lower level of participation, which would have amounted to a $375,000 grant award with a $93,750 match amount. Rodgers said the lower level of participation would be easier for the city to finance.
However, the lower level of participation would not allow for the replacement of the near-obsolete controller, which would cost around $180,000. The higher level of participation, though it requires a $443,750 match, will allow for funding for replacement controllers.
Eventually, the council voted 4-2 to participate in the program, with Councilmembers Kenny Roland and Paul Gomez voting against participation. Mayor Pro Tem Frank Estrada was not present at the meeting.
In other business, the council made changes to their utility billing policies which might make it easier for those in need to manage their power costs. Among other changes, the council agreed to alter the city’s “level billing” policy, which allows for customers to pay an average monthly bill throughout the year rather than face skyrocketing costs in the summer.
In the past, only those customers who had a year of usage history within the City of Lockhart, were elderly or disabled and who had not made past due payments were eligible for level billing. The change, Rodgers said, would enhance customer service, a primary focus of the billing department in recent years.
They also discussed a schedule for beginning the budget process for the coming fiscal year. The council will begin budget workshops on Tuesday, June 26.
Prior to adjourning, the council met in executive session to discuss an incoming business prospect with Economic Development Director Sandra Mauldin.
They made no announcement after the discussion.

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