911 Dispatch Center move delayed at least until fall|[05/01/08]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 1, 2008

Delays continue in moving the E-911 Dispatch Center to its new location.

At Wednesday’s commission meeting, the dispatch center’s director, Michael Gaul, said it likely will be fall before the agency moves to a building at Clay and First North streets. At the beginning of this year, June was the predicted move-in date.

The still-pending move comes after years of operating in a former break room at the county jail and since then in a basement room under the steps of the Warren County Courthouse. In order to improve those conditions and upgrade equipment for dispatchers, supervisors purchased from the City of Vicksburg the former Southern Printing building for $230,000 in March 2006.

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Gaul reported Wednesday that the project’s initial construction phase would be completed by Friday.

“However, we were anticipating this phase to be done in February and here it is May already,” he added after the meeting.

Gaul attributed the slow construction to various factors, including delays in receiving equipment.

Next in line will be installing the new center’s Positron computer-aided dispatch system, which will be about a $600,000 investment including equipment, and then getting a quote from Motorola for the expenses of moving and upgrading radio equipment.

“It’s not been a fast process, but I’m not frustrated,” Gaul said. “Delays are to be expected. I’m glad as long as there’s progress being made.”

The recent delay in the move has not been the first. Nearly two years ago, the Warren County Board of Supervisors awarded a bid to Grenada-based Jones-Zander Ltd., to draft a plan to renovate the Clay Street building. But the structure required upgrades to its electrical system and removal of decaying carpet and ceiling and floor tiles filled with asbestos. Then-dispatch center director Geoffrey Greetham, supervisors and the E-911 Commission began debates over to what extent the building should be renovated.

In June 2007, Greetham was fired for unspecified reasons. After his firing, Greetham attributed at least some of the reason for his departure to difficulties flowing from attempts to move the center.

“After that, things moved, but at a slow pace,” said Keith Rogers, Vicksburg Fire Chief and head commissioner. “The commission wanted to have a permanent director in place before too many decisions were made.”

In October, Myrant and Associates was awarded the contract for adapting the building, which was followed by the hiring of Gaul in January.

“We knew this would take a while, with all of the in-depth planning required, but I still think things could have moved a little faster,” Rogers said.

According to Gaul, the entirety of the project, the building purchase included, will be $1.5 to $1.8 million. The new facility will provide more than double the space of the current dispatch center.

Commissioners in attendance Wednesday, in addition to Rogers, were Warren County Fire Coordinator Kelly Worthy, Vicksburg Mayor Laurence Leyens, Warren County Emergency Management Director Gwen Coleman, Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace and Vicksburg Police Chief Tommy Moffett.

At the meeting, the commission also approved the hiring of a new dispatcher, the resignation of another, two training courses for dispatchers and the April 2008 Bill of Allowances.

In an executive session, the panel said they discussed a personnel matter, but no action was taken.

The commission’s next meeting is scheduled for May 28.

Voters authorized the agency in 1989 and agreed to pay for it through their phone bills, plus general fund supplements. Trained dispatchers who staff the center answer all calls for assistance.