Corps takes blame for flooding of New Orleans|[6/2/06]

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 2, 2006

The first day of hurricane season served as the backdrop of discussions Thursday over how local officials and social service agencies should be prepared in case 2006 brings another Katrina.

&#8220It’s important for everyone in the community to know who to call in case of an emergency,” said United Way President Barbara Tolliver. &#8220When Katrina hit, we were working 12 to 14 hours a day and didn’t have all of the answers. We needed to be better prepared.”

In a separate meeting, Warren County supervisors came no closer to resolving a dilemma created by their 3-2 vote on May 22 to end the tenure of L.W. &#8220Bump” Callaway as county emergency management director and transfer his duties to E-911 Dispatch Center Director Geoffrey Greetham.

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A problem is that Greetham is an employee of the E-911 Commission on which Callaway served. Thursday, supervisors backed away from the idea of changing the language in the 1993 interlocal agreement allocating commission posts to seven local officials, including the emergency management director. An idea had been to make the seat appointive.

&#8220Whoever is in charge of emergency management ought to be sitting in that seat,” said District 5 Supervisor Richard George, who had joined District 1 Supervisor David McDonald in voting against terminating Callaway.

In addition to the emergency management director other defined positions include the mayor, police chief, fire chief, sheriff, volunteer fire coordinator and a supervisor.

The discussion ended with the five supervisors leaving all possibilities on the table, including whether to advertise the position of emergency management director, since Greetham was given an initial six-month appointment, as well as a position for deputy director or operations officer.

District 2 Supervisor William Banks and District 3 Supervisor Charles Selmon’s support for agency planner and 27-year department employee Gwen Coleman for the latter position has put them at odds with the county’s job advertising policy, one changed more than a year ago to go beyond people not already on county payroll.

At the United Way session, Greetham and Coleman joined other public safety officials, local American Red Cross representatives and other organizations to establish a flow of communications in case Warren County again becomes an evacuation center as it did for most of September. More than 1,200 people were in five local shelters, local motels were filled and there were hundreds more fleeing Katrina as the county was also trying to cope with storm damage, including a nearly complete loss of electricity and fuel lines.

Thursday’s meeting followed an April meeting that focused on coordination among nonprofit agencies in directing people in need to available resources.

Thursday, it was decided the flow of communications starts with Greetham and each agency lists its primary responsibilities. The purpose was to define how each will respond and interact with others.