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Commission Agrees To Increase Staffing At 911 Center

January 23, 2019

The Wetzel County Commission held its regularly scheduled meeting on Jan. 16 with President Larry Lemon, Vice President Lisa Heasley, and Commissioner Gregory Morris present. Also present was Wetzel County Clerk Carol Haught.

Steven Yoho, Director, and Gary Glasscock, Deputy Director, of the OEM/E911 appeared before the commission regarding staffing at the 911 center. Yoho stated that the county's 911 started in 2001. At that time, there were four full-time employees and one part-time. The sheriff's office had seven deputies, including the sheriff. At that time, the center did not dispatch for the New Martinsville Volunteer Fire Department, Paden City Police Department, or the Paden City VFD. However, shortly after the county started its 911, the center began dispatching for those entities.

The center did not have a full first year with the computer-aided design system until 2007. That year, there were 5,479 calls, including traffic stops conducted by the officers.

Yoho explained there has been a steady increase every year in the total number of calls, and next year is estimated to be even higher. It was explained the county's EMS calls have been steadily climbing, and fire calls vary. This past year, the number of calls increased considerably, and appears to be on the track to do such this year as well.

However, the center is still operating with the same number of employees.

Yoho stated that, since 2019, the county has hired more deputies, and police departments have hired more officers, which increases the traffic stops and call volume.

He further noted there has been an increase in oil and gas activity. There has also been an increase in drug traffic throughout the Ohio Valley.

With just one dispatcher at center, that dispatcher has to tell officers on a traffic stop to standby, while the dispatcher pages the fire department or an ambulance on another call, or answer another line. Yoho said if something were to happen with the officer on the traffic stop, the dispatcher would be unaware of many variables, such as what happened, who was involved, or the location.

Yoho believes an increase in staffing would cut down on liability, as well as burn-out for the dispatchers. Yoho said there are times when the phone does not ring, and a dispatcher is able to take a break. However, there are times when the dispatcher may not be able to use the restroom for hours, because they are answering the radio and phone.

Yoho said the center dispatches for 14 units at the sheriff's office, 12 other law enforcement units, 10 fire departments, and seven ambulances. He said Pine Grove Police Department made 444 traffic stops from Sept. 1 until the end of December. Yoho explained a number of steps must be taken, to enter information into the center's system, during a traffic stop. He said the dispatchers are doing a really good job, but due to the workload, they miss little things here and there.

It was requested that the commission help the 911 center to hire three more people, which would allow two people per shift. This would decrease the amount of calls placed on hold.

Yoho explained how a car wreck on the riverfront could result in 15 people calling 911 at the same time. With a structure fire, in the middle of the day in New Martinsville, the center could receive 30 calls. Yoho said there could be two to three calls before the dispatcher can get the information on the emergency, because of the amount of calls. Yoho said additional personnel would help process the calls even quicker, so details to handle the situation are not missed.

Yoho stated there is $25,000 budgeted per year in overtime, and it is hoped to cut back on that. There is also $25,000 budgeted in part-time, and it is desired to put those funds toward more full-time positions.

Yoho said the cost is approximately $180,000 per year for three more dispatchers. However, with reducing the overtime and using the part-time funds, the center would only need $150,000 instead.

The commission approved the proposal, in the amount of $150,000.

In another matter, the commission met with Prosecuting Attorney Timothy Haught regarding the hiring of a part-time employee. Haught said he wanted to leave the request for the commission's consideration. He said the position would involve file scanning, data input, shredding documents and other tasks.

The commission did not make a decision on the matter.

Also, Charles Goff, mayor of the Town of Hundred, spoke to the commission regarding several requests. First, funding for the 2017 flooded structure project was presented. He stated three bids were received for this job - the highest being $398,000; the middle bid was $246,995, and the lowest bid was $122,500. He stated he is also working with someone from United Way and will possibly receive another $10,000 from the organization. Also, another organization, The Community Foundation of the Ohio Valley, has just approved $5,000 toward the project. The town now has $10,000 for its long-term recovery group.

Goff requested that the town would be allowed to send the commission invoices of the job, to pay for the completion of the project. He initially calculated $97,000 but he feels that the number will come down a little bit.

Goff also presented a request for funding for a new ordinance bill to be put into place for the town. He stated that the project is $7,500.

Another project is the addition of digital radar signs. Goff is requesting three of them. The cost of the signs are usually $3,200. However, a company has agreed to a discount. The cost for three signs is $8,260.50.

The fourth project dealt with the Independence Day/125th Birthday for Hundred. This year, the town would like to hire a company which will supply three inflatable games, four carnival-type games, a dunk tank and the cartoon character, Spongebob. The cost for this is normally $4,200. The company has agreed to give a discount, bringing the total cost to $3,050, which includes set-up and tear-down. The company also supplies prizes.

Goff said, each year, the town receives money from a parks and recreation committee. However, each year, the total is less. He said $5,000 is always the cost of fireworks, and $1,500 is spent for bands to play throughout the day. There is usually a cost of $150 attributed to games, and portable restrooms are also rented for the celebration.

Goff requested $5,000 on behalf of the town. A total of $3,000 would go toward the games, and $2,000 would go toward the fireworks.

The commission made no decision on the matter at its Jan. 16 meeting.

In other matters, a motion was made and passed for the mileage reimbursement rate increase to go from 54.5 cents per mile to 58 cents per mile.

The commission also approved a donation request of $300 for the Magnolia High School Rotary Challenge Basketball Tournament.



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