Sheriff hopes to bring back emergency alerts

Monday, March 20, 2017
From left, Red Willow County Chief Deputy Joe Koetter and Sheriff Alan Kotschwar during the March Coffee with a Cop meeting at the Bieroc Cafe.
Bruce Baker/City Editor

McCook, Neb. -- Red Willow County Sheriff and Emergency Manager Alan Kotschwar hopes to bring back an emergency notification system that was in place several years ago.

The "CodeRed" system was implemented in the fall of 2010, thanks to a three-year stimulus grant from the federal government, but was discontinued when the cost would have become reliant on county budgeting.

Sheriff Kotschwar touted the value and popularity of the alert system during last week's Coffee with a Cop meeting at the Bieroc Cafe. "The weather alerts are especially beneficial to those in the county that don't have warning sirens. It worked great before," said Sheriff Kotschwar.

Sheriff Kotschwar hopes a lower annual cost coupled with a funding partnership between Red Willow County and the City of McCook helps bring the service back. He has been researching providers and indicated he was impressed with a package put together by Alert Sense that would cost around $5,500 annually. The emergency alert system rejected by commissioners in 2013 would have cost the county $7,500 annually at its lowest level, with other options available for $10,320 annually.

"A good chunk of Red Willow County residents live in McCook," said Kotschwar, adding he planned to approach city leaders in the near future with a proposed partnership and partial funding request.

The alert system would not only provide year-round weather alerts but also a local means to communicate other emergencies, such as Work Ethic Camp incidents, fires and travel advisories, among others.

The sheriff's department is also making changes to its website and Kotschwar said he hopes to have the new website up and running in the next couple months. For the time being, he said the "Red Willow County Sheriff's Office" facebook page is updated regularly with alerts and bookings.

The sheriff's department is also hosting a storm spotter class at the Heritage Senior Center next week. The event is open to the public and free to attend, beginning at 6:30 p.m on Wednesday, March 29.

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