Moultrie Observer

Local News

March 17, 2011

UGA seeks funds to keep weather monitors online

MOULTRIE — The dean of the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences expressed confidence Thursday that its network of weather monitors will be saved.

However, in order to do so those who use the system will have to pay to keep the 81 monitoring stations across the state up and running.

After a key faculty member who procured grant funding for the Georgia Automated Environmental Monitoring Network left recently it had been estimated that the system would shut down April 15.

However, $25,000 in funding from the Georgia Department of Agriculture provided additional time for the college to arrange alternative sources of money, Dean Scott Angle said during a stop in Moultrie. Other groups also have provided money.

Maintaining the monitors, which provide temperature, precipitation and other weather information, costs about $25,000 per month or $300,000 per year.

The state’s power companies are the largest user of the information, followed by commodity associations and growers, Angle said. The latter have agreed to foot part of future funding.

Trial lawyers also use the system for getting weather information while constructing accidents, he said.

“I’m pretty confident we’re going to keep it open, but today I don’t know where I’m going to get the money to do it,” Angle said. “We’ve had so many people respond and say we’ll pay our fair share. It’s just a matter of getting it all organized.”

The budget problems for the environmental network has nothing to do with cuts in recent years to the college’s funding, he said.

Angle said he is trying to get a commitment from power companies before talking with commodity groups and others who use the system to a lesser degree. So far he has not had success reaching them.

Once financing is arranged the network, currently available to everyone at www.georgiaweather.net, will only come at a cost.

“When we get it reorganized it will be a closed system, so only those who pay will have access to the data,” Angle said. “That’s one of the problems: It’s always been free.”

Angle envisions that individuals would be able to access the system by paying a single-visit charge or a flat annual fee for unlimited use.

Locally there is one station in Colquitt County located at Sunbelt Agricultural Exposition; one each in Brooks, Mitchell and Worth counties; and two in Tift County.

 

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