Gaul named director of 911 dispatch center|[01/25/08]

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 25, 2008

The top spot at the Warren County E-911 Dispatch Center has been filled.

In a closed session of a special meeting called Thursday, the E-911 Commission named Michael Gaul as the center’s director, filling a vacancy that existed for seven months.

Commission chairman Keith Rogers said Gaul, who had filled in as the center’s interim since former director Geoffrey Greetham was fired for unspecified reasons June 18, was voted in unanimously by the seven commissioners who are all city and county officials.

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“Overall, Michael has done a fine job and we feel that the center has made improvements since he’s taken over,” said Rogers, chief of the Vicksburg Fire Department. “We want to see him continue.”

Gaul, 29, was one of three finalists interviewed Thursday to head the $1.4 million city-county agency. The others were Bill Jeffers of Vicksburg, who is a Warren County Sheriff’s deputy, and Michael Wallace of Yazoo City, a supplies supervisor at the Jackson Police Department.

After being notified of the decision, Gaul said he was excited and relieved that the wait was over.

“We can really start moving forward now,” Gaul said. “A lot of things at the center have kind of been at a standstill for a while, waiting for this decision to be made. I think things are really going to take off now.”

After Greetham’s departure, 21 people applied for the job before the Oct. 26 deadline and the list was narrowed at a Nov. 14 meeting. At the conclusion of a Nov. 28 meeting, commissioners said interviews with four finalists would be held before the Dec. 19 commission meeting. However, interviews did not materialize due to miscommunication.

Responsibilities of the 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. Gaul’s salary will be $48,200, Rogers said.

Greetham, a retired Army major, was chosen from more than 70 applicants for the post 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.

After his firing, 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 county jail and since then in a leaky basement room under the steps of the courthouse. In a bid to improve those conditions and upgrade equipment for dispatchers, supervisors purchased from the City of Vicksburg the former Southern Printing building at Clay and First North streets for $230,000 in March 2006.

At last month’s meeting, Gaul reported that the project, which he said consisted mostly of electrical work, was still on schedule and operations may move in late winter or early spring.

Gaul said the new facility would provide more than double the space of the current dispatch center and, because of the commission’s approval, will feature a new dispatch system that Gaul said would save about $150,000.

Myrant and Associates is the company that was awarded the contract for adapting the building in October. Gaul noted that the entirety of the project, the building purchase included, would be about $1 million.

Rogers and Gaul both said that further discussions about the new center would take place Wednesday when the group has its regular meeting.

Voters authorized the centralizing dispatch operations in 1989 and agreed to pay for it through their phone bills, plus general fund supplements.

Commissioners at Thursday’s meeting were, in addition to Rogers, District 1 Supervisor David McDonald, Fire Coordinator Kelly Worthy, Mayor Laurence Leyens, Emergency Management Director Gwen Coleman, Sheriff Martin Pace and Police Chief Tommy Moffett.