Barrow OKs E-911 upgrades

WINDER -- Barrow County took another stride in enhancing its emergency response services Tuesday night, as its county commission approved approximately $123,000 for hardware and software upgrade of its $1.5 million E-911 facility expected to come on line in May.

Specifically, the commission approved upgrade to the facility's computer-aided dispatch system, which emergency officials expect will quicken response times. The upgrade from AT&T, which will cost $87 more monthly to operate, will further automate a dispatch system initially bought in 2006.

County 911 Manager Kathy Wallace found it difficult to quantify by what percentage emergency response might be enhanced, but considered the upgrade much needed. She said response units should benefit from an improved master street address guide and better geographic location of emergencies, among other ways.

"This is just one of many steps," she said. "It's definitely going to enhance our ability to help people in our community."

Separately, the commission:

* Agreed to allow annexation of about 34 acres near Chateau Elan into the city of Braselton. The city is seeking rezoning of the land north of Interstate 85 near Ga. Highway 211 and Pinot Noir Drive to Planned Unit Development, in accordance with Chateau Elan's master plan update approved in November. The 203 adjacent acres to the south already is zoned PUD and is scheduled for commercial, retail and professional office use. Similarly, the adjacent acreage to the north is zoned general commercial and includes an office park.

County Planning and Zoning Supervisor Rebecca Whiddon said Braselton is expected to complete the annexation and rezoning next month.

* Heard a lengthy presentation from Steve Vaughn from the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia about providing for county employees' retirement. Vaughn suggested ways the financially challenged county can better manage retirement benefits.

"We're looking at every avenue and every aspect we can," Commission Chairman Danny Yearwood said upon thanking Vaughn for his presentation.