BOE OKs GPS station

Published 12:17 pm Wednesday, May 5, 2010

W.S. Neal High School will be home to an Alabama Department of Transportation GPS base station following approval for use of the school’s auditorium roof last week.

Members of the school board unanimously agreed to allow ALDOT to mount the base station to the top of the auditorium using a single pole structure.

John Russell, Assistant Location Engineer with ALDOT, spoke briefly with the board explaining the purpose of the base station and why W.S. Neal was the best fit for its location.

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“We need to put these on a good solid foundation to make sure the site is not moving and to make sure it has a good, clear view of the horizon, which allows it to see all available satellites,” Russell explained. “It is a Continuously Operating Reference Station (CORS) which is a survey grade GPS receiver operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Russell explained that the base station will have power run to it, but will only use 4 watts at 12 volts. He added that a DSL link is also needed for generating data, which the board also agreed to allow ALDOT to access from the school’s current network.

Once complete, the base station will be used for numerous purposes.

“ALDOT primarily uses it for surveying and engineering applications,” Russell said. “Surveyors use it for positioning and collecting information. On the construction side, a lot of contractors are going to computer controlled equipment, where computers installed in the construction equipment retrieve data on where to cut or fill or how much dirt to move, it’s all controlled by GPS.”

Russell added that numerous ALDOT hired contractors such as surveyors and engineers are switching to the high-tech equipment, and with the base stations in place, they are able to utilize the GPS systems, cutting down on the amount of workers needed.

“It increases productivity, and reduces personnel which results in a cost saving to the state,” Russell said.

Farmers in the area are also able to use the base station for their GPS-controlled equipment for what is called precision agriculture.

“Precision agriculture allows a farmer to increase his productivity, monitor crop yields more efficiently and allows the application of pesticides and fertilizer exactly where it’s needed, which reduces runoff and pollution,” Russell said. “The scientific community uses the GPS data to monitor subsidence and crustal motion and the NOAA weather service uses it to measure water vapor in the atmosphere, which results in improved real time weather forecasting.”

The cost of the base station and its installation is between $20,000 and $25,000, Russell said. ALDOT is working in conjunction with the Alabama Department of Revenue in locating the stations 45 miles apart throughout the state with funds from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which Sen. Richard Shelby and former congressman Bud Cramer of Huntsville secured.

Russell said the base station in East Brewton will be the 44th installed since the project began in 2004. He said most of the base stations are located on county courthouses, city offices and schools.

In other business, the board:

  • Heard results of an FY2009 audit by the State of Alabama Department of Examiners of Public Accounts. The audit was of financial statements for Oct. 1, 2008 to Sept. 30, 2009.
  • Agreed to allow Cindy Johnson to continue her RPM Outreach program, which has been in place for the last five years and has grown from three schools and 704 children to five schools and 1,701 children.
  • Chief School Financial Officer Julie Madden updated the board on the month’s financials, which ended with a fund balance of $9.4 million down from $9.7 million the previous month. She informed the board that the balance would steadily decrease as the year is finished under proration
  • Agreed to sign a contract with the Brewton YMCA for the use of a bus during YMCA Summer Day Camp programs.
  • Approval to bid surplus school buses/vehicles.
  • Approved the 2010-11 school calendar.
  • Tabled approval of the 2010-11 Student Code of Conduct to allow board members to further review it.
  • Awarded a bid for off-lease/ refurbished computer equipment (#2010-4) to CDI (Computer Dealers, Inc.) for the following amounts: (Base Model) Desktop for $291.07, Premium Desktop for $434.97, (Base Model) Laptop for $314.78 and Premium Laptop for $359.80.
  • Approved various summer program dates, times, employment and salaries. Visit for details.
  • Approved the reinstatement of one sick leave day to Starlet Jones, teacher aide, W.S. Neal Elementary School, due to an on-the-job injury, effective March 17, 2010.
  • Approved the following personnel issues: resignation, Shannon Johnson, teacher, Escambia County High School, effective May 28; John Sweeting, senior Naval science instructor, Escambia County High School, effective June 30 and Michael Hadley, temporary part-time grass cutter, Atmore Maintenance Department, effective April 19. Retirement, William Gates, Automotive Instructor, Escambia County High School, effective July 1; Ann B. Rawlinson, teacher, Pollard-McCall Junior High School, effective June 1; Selina Kornegay, math/English teacher, Flomaton High School, effective June 1; Carolyn Hawthorne, teacher, A.C. Moore Elementary School, effective July 1, 2010; Jacqueline Smith, bus driver, Brewton bus shop, effective June 1 and Linda Luttrell, second grade Teacher, Flomaton Elementary School, effective June 1. Employment, Camille Lindsey, education and training instructor, Escambia-Brewton Career Technical Center, effective 2010-2011 school year (replacing Elizabeth Lovelady) and Title I Jump Start Enrichment Program Personnel, Flomaton Elementary School, teachers, Tammy Bonds and Heather Johnson; aides, Sarah Ward, Pam Allen and Brenda Bell and custodian, Brenda Mitchell.