Concerns about E-911 continue

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 3, 2007

LINDEN &8212; After hearing concerns related to the E-911 service and is non-functioning board at both the last regular meeting and an additional special meeting on Sept. 18, the Marengo County Commission is investigating what can be done to remedy the problem-plagued service.

According to Jefferson Volunteer Fire Department Chief Betty Bates, who s a prominent voice in opposition to the current E-911 service and its management, she understood the special meeting was to be called to discuss problems with E-911, not the board itself.

Once at the meeting, however, Bates said the commissioners turned their focus on the state of the current E-911 board.

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The concerns she presented to the commission included problems with addressing. Since the Marengo County E-911 service came online in 1995, LAS Systems of Roopville, Ga. devised an addressing system for the county that is based on a road measurement, which includes addresses for all structures, driveways, intersections of other roads, intersections with county lines and city limits, as well as address numbers for endings of roads. Addresses are given using a scale of 5.28 feet per address and going from south to north and east to west of the county lines.

Janette Andress, a dispatcher with 22 years experience, explains with an example of 17355 U.S. Highway 43, which means the home would be located 17.3 miles from the Clarke County line. Furthermore, Andress said addresses are precisely determined for an important purpose.

Bates said temporary E-911 addresses were being given over the phone, which is an improper procedure for E-911.

Lisa Mangum, who was promoted from interim director to director of the Marengo County Emergency 911 Center in March, said she gave temporary addresses to people in order to allow them to get electricity and other utilities hooked up to their homes, which cannot be done before an E-911 address is established.

Furthermore, Mangum said the vehicle she uses to do addressing is constantly breaking down and in disrepair.

On more than one occasion, Mangum said the vehicle was repaired, but upon continued use to go out and do addressing the vehicle would break down and be towed back into the city.

Bates and Andress contend there is more than one way to do addressing, all it requires is a measuring device and the proper scale to come up with address.

Another major issue, Mangum said, is with the board not being able to get a quorum to meet to address some of these concerns. All major expenses, such as any new equipment, require approval by the board, which has led to difficulties performing vital tasks such as addressing, Mangum said.

At the special meeting, commissioners took no action regarding the current E-911 board.

Freddie Armstead, commissioner for District 1, said the commission has heard numerous complaints about the situation in the past and that all of them were &8220;legitimate concerns.&8221;

Dr. Ken Tucker, Commissioner for District 2, said the commission acknowledged there were some real issues with E-911.

Each commissioner can appoint one member and there are two at-large appointments.

One option the commission does have to correct the problems with the board, Tucker said, is to ask for blanket resignations from the current board members, so the commission could then repopulate the board with new members.

Two members, Chairman Mitchell Snipes and Sheriff Jesse Langley, have already submitted letters of resignation to the E-911 board. At the commission&8217;s last regular session meeting, they accepted the resignation of Snipes, but did not accept Langley&8217;s pending concerns that the sheriff in the county must be a part of the board.

Tucker said there is no requirement stating a sheriff must be a part of the E-911 board.

The term for another member, Joseph Hudson, is set to expire this month. The terms of three of the remaining members, Grady Kelly, Carrie Rowser and Mark Carlisle, are set to expire in October 2009, while the final member, Bryan Lewis, is set for the board until December 2010.

When asked what the requirements for a board member would be, Armstead said all it requires is a citizen of the county who is willing to serve.

Tucker added a desirable candidate would have related experience and some business sense.

For Bates and Mangum, in order for the E-911 service to progress, serious changes need to be made with the board. Bates suggested starting over and doing intensive restructuring over a period of a year or more.