ATHENS, Ala. - The Athens City Council approved a new contract with Nixle for emergency alert services on Monday, Jan 14. Thousands of people in Athens stopped receiving Nixle alerts last week. Those are messages that give emergency alerts through texts or emails.
The once free service will now come at a cost to the city.
The Nixle program allows cities and first responders to send alerts about road closures, weather, amber alerts, and power outages, among other things.
Holly Hollman, grant coordinator and communications specialist for the City of Athens, provided an example of an event where Athens used the system.
"Last year we had a gas main that a contractor struck," she explained. "I was able to use Nixle to send out alerts about that area being evacuated, about the road closures."
She said Nixle alerts are important because they get necessary information to people quickly.
In Athens, around 4,000 people receive text updates, and 2,000 receive the email alerts, but on January 1st, those alerts stopped.
Athens had been using the service for free since before Hollman started in 2011. Now, the new contract comes with a price tag.
The new three-year contract will cost a little over $4,000 annually, as well as a one time set up fee of about $372.
"That amount comes out to about a dollar a person that's using the service now," Hollman said. "And we have a lot of citizens that rely on it."
She said the cost would be spread out between the city's general fund and the utility departments.
The new contract has upgraded services, including Spanish translations of the alerts and the ability to send messages to only certain areas of the city.