Jonesboro using COVID funds for public safety projects

by George Jared ([email protected]) 501 views 

The city of Jonesboro plans to use $1.75 million in federal COVID relief funding to pay for safety projects, primarily in Jonesboro’s police, fire and E911 departments, Mayor Harold Copenhaver said Wednesday (Oct. 13).

The plan includes comprehensive traffic and safety camera upgrades used by the engineering and police departments, high-definition cameras at each of the city’s 22 parks, replacing outdated technology for the city-county 911 department, and modern radio and personal protection equipment and medical supplies for firefighters.

“These are all critical upgrades, not extravagances, that our first responders need and will literally save lives,” Copenhaver said. “The mandate when I was elected was safety and quality of life. We all know you can’t have quality of life without safety, so I expect this investment to be just the first in a series of projects that will continue to keep Jonesboro safe and sound well into the future.”

Funding for the improvements will be sourced from American Rescue Plan Act money the city received this year from the federal government in response to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on communities across America.

While final guidelines for using ARPA money have not been provided, city officials think this use will fall within the boundaries.

Traffic and safety camera upgrades will consolidate 10 video platforms currently in use by the city, greatly increasing network capabilities, crime-solving resources and the ability to apply both long-term and real-time data to improve traffic flow. The city has budgeted $650,000 for these upgrades.

“These purchases go hand in glove with recently approved GPS personal-camera gear approved for police officers by our city council,” Copenhaver said.

The technology in the 911 center is aging and about $176,000 has been designated for modern workstations, wireless headsets and software that supports immediate officer identification and location.

“Our 911 operators work in demanding conditions,” Copenhaver said. “They need more comfortable work stations and better equipment to reduce mental and physical fatigue. I also appreciate County Judge Marvin Day and the rest of the 911 board for recognizing the need and contributing to the cause.”

About $740,000 will be used to replace the outdated Station Alert System used by the Jonesboro Fire Department. The system is responsible for alerting the nearest response teams and communicating additional information to all field units. Ten portable radios will cost $50,000.

JFD officers will also receive $70,000 in personal-protection equipment to handle an increased number of medical calls during COVID, requiring more emergency medical equipment including automated external defibrillators and disposable medical supplies.

Additional expenditures announced consist of 40 handheld radios for the Streets Department at a cost of $62,000 and a $5,000 updated dispatch system for Animal Control.