Voting process simplified, less contact amid pandemic

Pictured is DeKalb County Probate Judge Ronnie Osborn, who addressed the county commission on Tuesday.

The DeKalb County Commission heard an update from DeKalb County Probate Judge Ronnie Osborn on election devices during Tuesday’s meeting.

Osborn said he wanted to bring the commission up to date on their plans to upgrade from MS100 machines implemented in 2006 through the work of Commission President Ricky Harcrow and himself, to the DS200 voting scanners for the November 2020 General Election.

The precinct scanners, usually referred to as the voting machine, is what you put your ballot in.

“[County Administrator] Matt Sharp and I have been working for quite a few months on these DS200 machines,” he said.

Osborn said the cost of renting the machines if all DS200 are utilized per election is approximately $5,100. However, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill has secured funds to pay for the devices through 2023.

He said although the original MS100 machines have served the public well, they are getting to where they have to spend quite a bit of money to keep them updated and on breakdowns.

County Administrator Matt Sharp said the Secretary of State would pay the $5,100 lease per election with a maintenance cost of about $20,00 per year for the first three years after that the county will be required to pay those costs.

“I think it would be great if we could go ahead and go with the DS200 machines. Mr. Sharp has pretty well all the paperwork about that,” said Osborn.

Harcrow said since the start of the process. It has been “such an improvement” even up to where they are now. However, the new upgrade will be a smooth process and a “great improvement.”

“The precinct scanners will be very beneficial for us,” Sharp said.

He expressed his appreciation towards Judge Osborn and Secretary of State John Merril for making the upgrade possible.

Osborn thanked David Brewer, who works for the secretary of state, for all the work he put into providing funds for the machines.

The commission voted to approve entering into a contract with Election System & Software (ES & S) for the lease of the machines that will be paid for through 2023.

Osborn also discussed the purchasing of “Poll Pads” or poll books for the November election.

Sharp said the poll pads are a product used to replace the paper copies of the poll list or the voters list.

“Knowink is the company we’ve been working with for probably three years. We did a pilot program, and it worked really well,” he said.

Osborn said, although it’s a lot of work to program them and get them out to the public, the process would be much more efficient due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You walk in, slide your license, sign the pad ballot, and you’re gone,” he said.

The new Poll Pad is set to reduce contact between the poll workers and the voters, which would be beneficial for all during these times of uncertainty.

“It’s a lot less contact with Poll Workers and voters then signing the book,” said Osborn.

The cost of the poll pad is set to be about $50,00.

Osborn said they had previously received $13,000 and have now secured $31,753 from Merrill to finish the project.

“It will be no cost out of our pocket except until 2023,” said Osborn. After that time, the reprogramming is about $100 per pad.

Harcrow said the new upgrades are a significant improvement to expedite the voting process much more quickly.

The commission voted to approve the purchasing of the Poll Pads.

Commission also heard a road maintenance update from County Engineer Ben Luther during Tuesday’s meeting, regarding road damage from the Easter Sunday floods and the annual paving.

He said from the Easter floods, there were about 11 particular locations that sustained significant damage where pipes and roadways were washed out or blown out that had to be closed.

“Right now, we have reopened seven of those locations. We have one that is a temporary repair that has been opened but we will go back and do additional work,” said Luther.

He said as of Tuesday, July 14 the following three roads have yet to be open:

• County Road 44 lacks the final layers of paving. Progress was halted due to the paving machine going out.

• County Road 33 below Hammonds Crossroads, the road department crew began work at this location on Monday. Luther said it’s going to be a difficult location because it’s very deep. He said it’s going to take a while to get this one repaired.

• County Road 641 East of Mentone, the road department has not made it to this location yet.

Luther also announced per, DeKalb County has received a Federal Declaration for the flood-damaged event and would be receiving federal assistance for the work done.

He said it would be a significant help and without it, the county would be in some dire consequences.

“In regards to our paving, as far as I know, only two roads are remaining in District I that have not been paved as part of our County Transportation Plan with the new Rebuild Alabama funding,” said Luther.

The commission also:

• approved the Speed Limit Resolutions for County Road 1004, a paved road between County Road 462 and County Road 52 posted at 25 mph, County Road 781, between state road 75 and County Road 776, a paved road posted at 25 mph, County Road 776, between County Road 141 and State Road 75, a paved road posted at 40 mph and County Road 667, between County Road 134 and State Road 117, a paved road posted at 25 mph.

• approved to extend the existing Liquid Calcium Chloride Annual Bid to Southeastern Road Treatment from August 1 to July 31, 2021.

• approval to forward the following damaged claims to CRS, the county insurance carrier: (1) Tim Poe on County Road 788 had a busted tire from a pothole. (2) Andrea Wright, on County Road 51, had a busted windshield from a brushcutter. (3) Judy Michael Haney on County Road 89 above DeSoto State Park had a cut tire due to the pavement’s edge.

• accepted the retirement of Lt. Alfred Rigstad effective July 1, 2020.

• approved the following Sheriff’s Office personnel: hire Alfred Rigstad as a part-time deputy as needed, transfer Carl White from transport deputy to patrol deputy to replace Alfred Rigstad, hire Tim Devlin as a transport deputy to replace Carl White retroactive to June 29, 2020, hire John Moses as a courthouse security deputy as needed.

• approved to send Josh Hairston, Westley Fortner and David Davis to investigator training in Andalusia, Alabama.

• Chief Deputy Brad Gregg announced the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department was awarded the COPS Grant for the first time since the early 2000s.

– Editor’s note: An in-depth story is being developed by staff writer Cinthia Rico and will appear in an upcoming edition of The Times-Journal.

• approved for Commission President Ricky Harcrow to sign off on the Revenue Commission Office’s annual insolvent, errors and taxes in litigation.

• approved the Mapping Agreement between the Alabama Department of Transportation, State Department of Transportation and the county appraisal office in maps and services.

• approved the DeKalb County Animal Adoption Center Veterinary Technician Leslie Johnson’s attendance to the annual Southern Veterinary Conference in August.

• approved the 2020 Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday that’s set for July 17-19.

• approved to award the surplus vehicle bid of five fleet vehicles to J&M Wood Auction Company.

• approved to reappoint Kathy Clifton and Toby McCormick to the Department of Human Resources Board.

• approved to reappoint Ricky Harcrow to the Legislative Committee.

• approved the Retirement System of Alabama Tier 2 Resolution.

During Tuesday’s meeting, DeKalb County Commission President Ricky Harcrow, District II Commission member Scot Westbrook, District IV Commission member Lester Black, County Administrator Matt Sharp, and County Attorney Jeff McCurdy.

The next commission meeting is set for July 28, 2020.

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