Commission leaves 911 board as is

Published 2:59 pm Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Chilton County Commission could have altered the composition of the county’s 911 board but decided not to—perhaps a vote of confidence for a group that has 911 on a successful path.

The commission created the board in the early 1990s in response to legislation requiring a body to oversee county 911 systems. The seven-member board called for one representative from the county’s firefighters association and one representative from the EMS association, but those two groups merged, leaving commissioners with the question of what to do with the extra seat.

The commission decided at its Jan. 9 meeting to leave the board as is—with two seats claimed by the Chilton County Volunteer Firefighters Association.

“We’re just going to give it a year and see how this works out,” said Allen Caton, commissioner and 911 board member. “There are still some thoughts of having a citizen on the board, but right now there’s not enough support on the commission to do it. I just feel like it would be good to have another person’s point of view.”

The commission expressed a belief that the board is functioning properly.

Commissioners also discussed giving themselves a third seat on the board, adding a police chief, or maybe even just removing the seat altogether.

The board is comprised of two commissioners (the commission chairman and a second commissioner, decided informally among the commissioners themselves), the sheriff of Chilton County, two mayors and two representatives from the firefighters association (association president Adam Price and vice-president Jason Scott).

“It’s good for us to have representation because we’re speaking for all fire departments in the county, and if anything happens that needs to be changed, we’ve got a voice on the board,” Price said.

The mayoral seats rotate among the county’s municipalities. Clanton Mayor Billy Joe Driver and Maplesville Mayor Aubrey Latham are serving a two-year term, while the Jemison and Thorsby mayors will take over in mid-2013.

Mayors have the option of delegating their responsibility to a city or town councilmember, and police chiefs and fire chiefs can substitute for the mayors at any given meeting.

The board meets quarterly, usually on the third Thursday of a month in the commission chambers.

Sheriff Kevin Davis is serving as chairman of the board.

The board is tasked with hiring a 911 director, and also approving the agency’s budget and seeing that it is met each year.

Dan Wright was hired as the 911 director in November 2011.

“I felt like he was the most qualified person that applied for the job, and he’s proven that,” Caton said. “I was so impressed when Dan came in and interviewed for the job. He brought a plan of action.”

Caton said 911’s greatest need is a facility of its own. The organization operates out of a cramped space in the basement of the county courthouse.

Funding comes from fees added on to residents’ home phone bills, and from the $0.40 per person paid by the county and municipality for each resident inside the county or city limits.

A building fund was established a few years ago, but money has had to be borrowed from the fund to support 911’s regular operating expenses, which Caton said won’t be going down anytime soon.

“We’re shorthanded right now,” he said. “We need some more staff, and we’re just having to use a lot of part-time people.”