911 director addresses concerns

By Russell Hood

The Webster Progress-Times

 

Webster County 911 Director Jimmy McLemore says he is implementing changes that should improve dispatcher communications with the public and emergency personnel.

“Things are fixing to change,” he told supervisors last week.

The Board of Supervisors informed him Aug. 19 it was having complaints regarding the 911 service in the county from the public and local emergency services. The complaints included dispatchers not being able to properly give out directions to emergency responders. Supervisors agreed then that McLemore should address the issues immediately with his employees and report back to the board.

He appeared before the board Sept. 3 and confirmed that some urgent calls had been mishandled. McLemore said he had expressed his and the board’s concerns at a meeting with county fire chiefs, and asked for any suggestions they might have. He also said he talked with all 911 radio dispatchers and had given them new forms containing a checklist of questions to be asked of each caller. They had to sign a statement confirming that they understand new policies and procedures being implemented, according to McLemore.

“Some are struggling with it but it is getting better,” he said.

According to the discussion, McLemore plans to implement new scheduling for personnel, which will include eliminating most of the part-time dispatching positions. The 911 Center will have three full-time radio dispatchers plus himself filling in two days a week. “It’ll save us money and cut down on a lot of part-time problems,” McLemore said.

He also said some write-ups would start that day.

Paul Crowley (District 4) said, “We’ve got to get this thing turned around,” and cited liability issues.

Doug Burgess (District 5) told McLemore, “It comes back on your shoulders. … You’re gonna have to get things corrected by Nov. 1 or we’re gonna have to make some changes. If our people don’t perform, we have to make a change.”

Supervisors suggested that he implement his personnel and policy changes immediately, and give another update to the board at its first regular meeting in October. Board President Pat Cummings also advised McLemore to watch his budget more closely and to review his travel.

In other 911 matters, the board voted Aug 5 to send Receiving Clerk Steve Hodges to certification school to be able to set 911 addresses and accepted the resignation of dispatcher Pam Kelly on Aug. 30, effective immediately.

Other Business

Also on Sept. 3, board members renewed the county’s insurance policy with Hopkins Insurance Agency of Columbus and rejected terrorism coverage. Agent Eddie Mauck presented the policy to them; the amount is already budgeted.

After meeting with Circuit Clerk Deborah Hood Neal, supervisors voted to start the bid process to buy 45 new voting machines to replace those destroyed in the courthouse fire. The next election for which the machines will be needed is in June.

The board renewed the county’s software support agreement with Data Systems Inc. and voted to notify the state Department of Revenue that assessments are accurate and complete.

Other Meetings

Minutes show that, in previously unreported business, the board on Aug. 5 accepted a fiscal 2013 Emergency Management Performance Grant of $17,537. On Aug. 15, the board directed EMA Director Barry Rushing to apply to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency for a Special Projects Grant of $23,807 to buy equipment. Supervisors also voted to apply for a Homeland Security grant and request advancement of funds immediately, and to verify the annual salaries of the EMA director and deputy.

Tax Assessor-Collector Barbara Gore and Mike Sanders of Sanders and Associates met with the board Aug. 30. Sanders, who addressed the board about property assessment updates and fire-damaged files, said 77 maps were destroyed in the courthouse fire.

Additionally, the board voted to waive accrued damages and fees due to the county on a parcel because the taxpayer was unaware of the procedure and unaware of his obligation to pay the ad valorem taxes on his newly purchased property. The property was not in his name on the first tax roll collected following his purchase, according to the minutes.

Also on Aug. 30, supervisors hired Timmy Green as a District 3 road hand, effective Sept. 1.