Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 1, 2007

officials reviewing resumes for top position|[11/01/07]

The search for a director of the Warren County Dispatch Center will continue for at least two more weeks.

Six of the seven E-911 commissioners met in a closed session for a half-hour Wednesday to discuss candidates for the center’s vacant top position. The panel, which fired its former director, Geoffrey Greetham, June 18, stopped taking applications for the opening Oct. 26. Keith Rogers, Vicksburg fire chief and chairman of the city-county panel, said each commissioner will now review the 21 applications separately until they reconvene Nov. 14, when discussions will continue.

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“This isn’t a decision we’re going to rush,” Rogers said. “We’re going to take the time necessary to make the best possible choice.”

Among the resumes is that of Michael Gaul, who has served as interim director since Greetham’s departure. Following Wednesday’s meeting, Rogers said the commission has been pleased with Gaul’s performance.

“We have definitely seen some improvements in the dispatch center while he’s been there,” Rogers said. “Overall, it has gone very smooth.”

Responsibilities of the E-911 director include overseeing the dispatch center’s budget, which has been as high as $1.8 million annually, training its employees and developing and implementing policies. Rogers said a salary for the new director had not yet been determined. Greetham’s salary was $45,000.

Greetham, a retired Army major who was chosen from more than 70 applicants for the post, was hired in March 2005 to take over an operation then beset by personnel and morale problems. For five months in 2006, Greetham also served as interim director of the Warren County Emergency Management Agency as supervisors sought, briefly, to consolidate the function of hazard mitigation and emergency dispatch.

The decision to fire Greetham has the agency, which is operating on about a $1.4 million budget this year, seeking its third director in 2 1/2 years. Rogers did not go into detail of why Greetham was fired, saying only that “he didn’t meet the expectations of the commission.”

Greetham attributed at least some of the reason for his departure to difficulties flowing from attempts to move equipment and operations into a new location. The still-pending move comes after years of operating in a former break room at the Warren County Jail and since then in a basement room under the steps of the Warren County Courthouse. In a bid to improve those conditions and upgrade equipment for dispatchers, the Warren County Board of Supervisors purchased from the City of Vicksburg the former Southern Printing building at Clay and First North streets for $230,000 in March 2006.

Progress on the new dispatch center was discussed by the commission Wednesday. During the meeting’s open session, Gaul reported that Myrant and Associates had been awarded the contract for adapting the building, which Gaul said consisted mostly of electrical work. Gaul said Myrant and Associates’ bid of $409,000 was about $100,000 more than architects had predicted. The work is expected to be complete in 220 business days.

In the meeting room Wednesday, in addition to Rogers and Gaul, were Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace, District 1 Supervisor David McDonald, Warren County Fire Coordinator Kelly Worthy, Vicksburg Mayor Laurence Leyens and Warren County Emergency Management Director Gwen Coleman. Absent was Vicksburg Police Chief Tommy Moffett.

Seats on the commission were established after the city-county venture to consolidate dispatch services was authorized by voters 18 years ago.

The dispatch center was created after county voters agreed in 1990 to pay for 911 technology to be used to aid emergency response. Before then, 911 calls were answered at the Vicksburg Police Department and then transferred to the fire department, sheriff’s department or other appropriate agency. The new technology also allowed consoles to display site information, such as caller locations.