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E-911 worried about staffing problem

By By Marianne Todd/The Meridian Star
E-911 Commission Chairman Fred Rogers said Tuesday if the city refuses to replace transferring and terminated emergency dispatchers, the number of city dispatchers will decrease to one per shift.
Rogers said E-911 board members have been at a loss about what to do since city officials announced the responsibility for replacing and paying the four dispatchers falls to the E-911 Commission.
Two of the dispatchers transferred to other city positions Nov. 13, Rogers said. A third is scheduled to be transferred Monday. A fourth has already been terminated, he said.
Meridian's chief administrative officer, Ken Storms, said he is working on the problem but doesn't know what response the city will make.
Rogers said in the past, the city and the county have provided salaries for their own dispatchers most of whom transferred to the 14th Street dispatching center when the city and county consolidated E-911 services. City dispatchers are city employees, he said.
E-911 board member and Lauderdale County Sheriff Billy Sollie said the commission does not have the money to pay dispatchers' salaries.
Board members in a Thursday meeting made no decision in the matter. The E-911 Commission learned of the city's request two weeks ago in a letter sent by Police Chief Gregg Lewis, who also is an E-911 board member, Sollie said.
Lewis said the letter was intended to make good on the city's promise to allow Civil Service employees the right to transfer back to their original positions.
Lewis said the transferred employees will still work at the communication center one day a week and as needed.
Rogers said he is worried about the decrease in dispatchers in a job known for its high stress level.
Marianne Todd is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail her at mtodd@meridianstar.com.