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Funds approved for Knox County E911 upgrade 

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By Sabrina Westfall

The Knox County Council voted to approve the funding for an upgrade to the mandatory E911 upgrade.

Councilman Terry Johnson made the motion to accept the additional appropriation in the amount of $635,000 based on a recommendation formed by the Knox County Commissioners.

The statewide upgrade to the P25 system will require the purchase of some new equipment, as well as the upgrade of some old equipment in order to refrain from becoming obsolete.

Knox County Central Dispatch Director Debbie Schmidtknecht explained the funds would cover the cost of the following items for Central Dispatch: Four position MCC 7500 consoles and five radios through Motorola in the amount of $328,982; the NICE recording interface in the amount of $105,251; the NICE device at $49,376; and a 10 year maintenance contract valued at $30,610.50.

The approved amount also includes the cost of upgrading the current Motorola radios in the amount of $57,150; upgrading the EF Johnson radios at $13,630; and EF Johnson radios for the Knox County Sheriff’s Department from VEI in the amount of $95,510.

Knox County will be among the second phase of transition to the P25 platform.

Council Vice President Bob Lechner honored former Knox County Development Corporation President Gary Gentry during the meeting Tuesday night.

Gentry served as the KCDC president for 12 years, and is now retiring from the position. He is being replaced by Kent Utt.

Gentry recalled the beginning of his career in Knox County more than a decade ago. Just one year into his position, he learned he had a brain tumor. He said he believed his run with the KCDC was over at that point, but the compassion of the community brought him back.

Despite being stuck at home after surgery with partial paralysis, his spirits were lifted after receiving more than 150 cards and well wishes for a speedy recovery.

“I learned first hand the goodness of this community. I included that into my message when I tried to sell Knox County,” Gentry said.

The council approved an additional appropriation for the Bicknell-Vigo Township Public Library in the amount of $40,000 during the regular meeting.

Library Director Debbie Kean explained the funds would be used to update the interior of the building, which was built in 1990. The Bicknell branch will have new carpet installed and the walls repainted.

Knox County Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Director Dena Held gave an update on the program, which received funding from the council last year.

Held said there are currently 130 open CHINS (Children in Need of Services) cases in Knox County. Volunteers through the CASA program were able to advocate for 75 of those children. Unfortunately, that meant 65 children did not have an advocate to help the abused and neglected children in the court system.

The CASA program is continuing to recruit volunteers, and the number of volunteers has grown greatly since the inception of the program.

Held shared the story of one young woman who came into the CASA office wanting to help. The 20-year-old woman did not meet the minimum age requirement to be a volunteer, but she vowed to do what she could to help the program as a former CHIN.

A story relayed by Held at the meeting outlined the story of the woman who had been sexually abused as a child. She had to go through court hearings and give testimonies against the man who harmed her. But, with the help of her CASA volunteer, she and her family were empowered to do so.

“She helped us when we couldn’t help each other,” the story explained. “The CASA took the time to make me feel important.”

The council voted to approve a local match to the Knox County Parks and Recreation Department in the amount of $287,000 for the development of Fox Ridge Nature Park.

The funds are a match to the Bicentennial Nature Trust Grant, which will help with the purchase of the land at the old Fox Ridge Golf Course.

Parks Superintendent Rama Sobhani explained this appropriation does not mean the purchase of the land is official, but it is a step in the right direction to work towards the purchase of the land.

The Parks and Recreation Department is also waiting to hear about a federal Land and Water Conservation Fund grant up to $200,000.

The council voted to appropriate $50,000 to the Freelandville Regional Sewer District to get the project going. A grant for the project was successful, but the start up costs are need to move forward. Once the grant funds are released, the county will be reimbursed.

The ADA compliant ramp at the Knox County Probation Department will be moving forward with the approval of funds in the amount of $14,600. The project is expected to total $16,600.

The council approved an additional appropriation for the Knox County Courthouse elevator renovation in the amount of $25,615. The change order request was brought before the council because there were unforeseen issues with the electricity in the elevator.

Board President Randy Crismore noted it is important to remember the project has still come in at less than $450,000.

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