County wants to split EMA, E911

Published 11:14 pm Thursday, May 7, 2009

Plans are underway to end an agreement between the Covington County E911 Board and the county commission combining the positions of EMA and E911 director.

The commission has determined it is “not economically feasible or cost effective to continue the management of the two entities,” according to a proposed resolution presented to the E911 board by county administrator Brenda Petty Thursday.

Petty said the resolution is on Monday’s county commission agenda, and asked the board’s assistance in expediting the split.

“(The county is) in a financial position, and the savings (to the county when making the split) is substantial,” Petty said. “It’s more substantial that any other decision the county has made.”

Petty estimated the savings between $16,000 and $24,000. Currently, the county pays $600 each month for rent space in the E911 building. The county pays 70 percent of the EMA director’s salary; the E911 board, 30 percent; however, 50 percent of the EMA director’s salary is reimbursed by the state.

An agreement was signed April 18, 2000, merging the positions of director E911 and director of EMA. The agreement called for E911 to provide personnel, office space and administrative assistance as needed by EMA.

Once the split is agreed upon, the commission will move the EMA operations from the E911 building to the county administration building on Hillcrest Drive. The EMA director will then become a fulltime employee of the county, and a current county employee will be moved into the now-vacant position of part-time assistant director.

Petty said the current EMA/E911 director, Kristi Stamnes, has the option of “picking” which entity she would like to work for. If she chooses the county EMA position, she will be paid the 70-percent or her current salary paid by the county plus benefits. The benefits do not include a take-home vehicle. In the current arrangement, the E911 board provides the director a vehicle.

If Stamnes elects to remain as the E911 director, the EMA position must be filled, and the commission is shooting for a June deadline so that both directors would be in place before hurricane season begins, instead of the 90-day notice in the agreement, Petty said.

Cody Ward, 911 board chairman, said “We support the county commission, and we will do what we can do to help the county…. but I think for (the board) to move on this is putting the cart before the horse. (The commission) hasn’t voted on this and this is going to effect our budget significantly.”

Board member Wayne Godwin the E911 board is now in a position that it will have to hire a director.

“Regardless of whether (Stamnes) takes the position or not,” he said. “We’re going to have to do some adjusting to rehire a 911 director. That takes revenue.”

Ward said he felt the board needed time to revue its budget to determine how much it could pay a director.

“I understand the emergency, but we have to be sure our budget works,” he said.

Godwin and Ward agreed they would meet Monday afternoon “to go over the numbers” and present their findings at a special called meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday.