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Alert system back on line

From left, Groveland Township Supervisor Robert DePalma, Groveland Township Fire Chief Steve McGee, Springfield Township Supervisor Mike Trout, Jeremy Lintz, chief of North Oakland County Fire Authority, and Chris Benedict of Springfield supervisor’s office, discuss a new TV alert system. Photo by Phil Custodio (click for larger version)
November 25, 2009 - Digital television conversions cost local communities emergency-notification capabilities. Three local townships have a plan to compensate.

"It's an awesome system," said Mike Trout, Springfield Township supervisor, at a Nov. 18 workshop. "I wouldn't be surprised to see it picked up in other communities."

Springfield joined Groveland and Rose townships to contract with Satellite Tracking Systems of Ortonville for a Versimation remotely accessible crawl-line generator.

"It's quick and easy, and very cost effective," said Robert DePalma, Groveland Township supervisor. "It's a good example of intergovernmental cooperation, three communities working together."

Before the conversion, Comcast used to provide local governments the ability to broadcast emergency information in a crawl across the bottom of each channel. The Ortonville company allows the information crawl, but only on community public access channels.

"It makes your government channel more valuable than ever, with info all the time," said Don Cargo, Satellite Tracking Systems, demonstrating the system.

The system cost each community $1,400 out of their Public, Education and Government fees from subscribers.

"This is a good expenditure – we're limited on what we can spend it on," Trout said. "We'll roll it out within the next couple weeks."

Springfield Township receives about $60,000 a year in PEG fees, and has a $300,000 cable fund balance.

The system is accessible to supervisors, fire chiefs, and other officials over the Internet.

"It's accessible by Blackberry, anywhere you have Internet access," said Steve McGee, Groveland Township fire chief. "When there's bad weather, viewers can turn to local PEG channels for information."

Officials can also type in messages about school and road closings, sewer problems, traffic trouble on I-75, and Amber Alerts. The information crawl-line overlays scheduled videos and does not interfere with existing programming.

For more information, call 248-627-3334.

Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.
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