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Commission hears requests of county entities affected by COVID

The Troup County Board of Commissioners approved funding for various requests within some of the county’s departments Wednesday. All the requests were related to COVID-19.

Commissioners first approved and lifted the hiring freeze for the Department of Roads and Engineering so that a new civil engineer can be hired.

The person holding the position currently has given a two-week notice of resignation, explained James Emery, director of engineering and development.

Commissioner Chair Patrick Crews said the department had been hit hard by staff shortages caused by the COVID pandemic.

“We’ve got four vacancies right now that we’ve never had, and we’re having a struggle like everyone [is having,]” Emery said.

Commissioners then approved a total quote of $320,328 for upgrades to courtroom technology in five courtrooms, acoustic panels for the jail hearing room and juvenile courtroom, recording system for probate and juvenile, and eWarrant system for judges.

Upgrades to technology will allow for better and more efficient courtroom proceedings that adhere to COVID protocols/social distancing requirements, said Lindsay Mobley, court service director.

“The reason we need all this technology is because, due to COVID, social distancing is an absolute must,” Mobley said. ‘

“We cannot continue to have court in person the way we normally do. We are shoulder to shoulder in the hallways, and it happens all the time. People are wearing their masks, and they may or may not be vaccinated, but we just can’t have people next to each other the way that they are.”

The eWarrent system would allow judges to sign warrants remotely with the use of a tablet, Mobley said.  The uses of the technology would also eliminate the transportation of prisoners from the jail, which is being affected due to the jail being understaffed, Mobley said. The hearing room in the jail is concrete, she added, which causes the acoustics in the room to be uneven.

With the commissioners’ approval, these technology upgrades can be funded by the American Recovery Plan Act.

Finally, the commission approved funds for a seventh console system for the county’s emergency system.

Mosley explained that there has been an increased amount of calls to 911 services specifically in COVID response.

Jason Lawson, E-911 Director, said 911 services have received 100 more calls a month and that last months calls were particularly high.

“The month just closed out [Tuesday,] and I was looking at some numbers Monday, and we are way ahead of where we were even this time last year,” Lawson said.

“If [a console] tore up right now, we wouldn’t even have a spare. I’m not asking for any more staff; I’m just want to move one of my night shift [personnel] up … to help with the extreme call volume we receive from [11 a.m.] to [11 p.m.]”

Lawson said his department has two employees out  sick due to COVID at the moment.

In other businesses at the meeting, the commission approved an American Recovery Plan Act grant of $59,000 for the LaGrange-Callaway Airport.

These funds are to supplement losses in revenue due to the pandemic.