By ROBERT PIERCE
• Daily Leader
Following the second of two public hearings conducted within a matter of two weeks, Seward County commissioners Monday gave sheriff Bill McBryde the go ahead to apply for a grant which would improve the software he and other local first responders claim they could use to do their jobs better.
No objections were heard from the public at Monday’s meeting to applying for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant, a grant to assist with the sheriff’s office’s Criminal Data Base Management Software and Computer Equipment Project.
A public hearing also took place at the commission’s June 7 meeting, and McBryde said under law, two hearings are required for a grant of this type.
As with the previous meeting, McBryde received a unanimous vote from the commission Monday to apply for the grant. Prior to the vote, he informed the board of the goal of the grant – the integration and sharing of one software system for all first responders throughout the city of Liberal and Seward County.
“Most of those you would be familiar with would be the sheriff’s office, 911 communications and emergency management, EMS, county fire department, city of Liberal Police Department and the city fire department would all be linked to this,” McBryde said.
The sheriff said upgrades would likewise include those for the Seward County Attorney’s office and Seward County District Court.
“We’re applying for the Edward Byrne grant, and the city of Liberal will be applying for a Department of Justice COPS Grant,” he said. “Basically, it’s to redo our entire software project or information sharing from jail management, records management. Everything we do is based on this software.”
The Byrne grant is being done as a co-venture with the city, but McBryde is unsure of the dollar amount that will be received.
“We’re going for as much as we can and see what we can get,” he said. “We don’t know what we’re going to get.”
McBryde did say, however, at the June 7 meeting that $2.8 million in grant money is available for the entire state. Just prior to Monday’s vote, commissioner Jim Rice inquired as to what would happen if Seward County did not receive funding.
“We really don’t want to see that,” McBryde said. “We hope to go to the new system because it is more state of the art. We’re kind of behind times with the system that we’re running now. We’re hoping to get this funding in order to enhance this program.”
McBryde said there have been some recent questions about the similarities between the Byrne grant and a grant the sheriff’s office applied for last year for mobile data technology.
“That’s basically, the computers that go in the cars,” he said. “This grant, this program is totally separate, has nothing to do with that. Whether we stay with the program we’re with or go to a new software program, the MDTs will work with either one. It’s a better program with the newer one than the older one, but they will work either way.”