Meridian Star

Local News

January 3, 2014

County officials look at future of LEMA

MERIDIAN —     Now that the director of Lauderdale County Emergency Management Agency has resigned, county officials are faced with some choices about filling the job.

    David Sharp resigned in late December after holding the post of director for eight years. At a work session of the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors on Thursday, supervisors agreed to put the matter of hiring an interim director on the agenda for Monday's board meeting. Assistant Director for LEMA, Scott Spears, will be recommended as the interim, supervisors said on Thursday.

    There are a couple of other options on the table for the long-term future of the LEMA job. According to District 2 Supervisor     Wayman Newell, there is a possibility that the city and county could combine services of the city's department of public safety — formerly called Homeland Security — with LEMA. He emphasized, however, that no formal discussions have taken place and the work session on Thursday was the first time the board had discussed it.

    Another possibility is merging LEMA with Lauderdale County Emergency Communications Center, which handles all emergency 911 calls for the city and county.

    E-911 Director Jared Stanley wrote to the Board of Supervisors following Sharp's resignation, asking the board to consider consolidating the two agencies.

    "If there's any way we can save some money by combining something, I think that's what we should do," Newell said.

    Hank Florey, District 1 Supervisor and board president, said nothing is set in stone and the board likely will not take any action yet on changing LEMA.

    "That is one possibility. What we will do Monday, is we will consider making Scott Spears, who is now the assistant director, to making him the interim and then go from there."

    As to Stanley's proposal to merge 911 and LEMA, Florey said, "That will be considered later."

    District 4 Supervisor Joe Norwood said he isn't convinced that  any merger would be the right move. Norwood praised the job Stanley has done with 911, but said that job alone takes a lot of time and attention. Norwood said he wants to make sure that the public safety needs of the county are taken care of. He added that although he doesn't support any merger now, he is willing to listen to proposals. If he is convinced that the needs of the county can be met through a merger, he could support it.

    The Lauderdale County Emergency Communications (911) Center answers calls for all emergency and non-emergency requests for police, fires, and emergency medical assistance in the city of Meridian, and in Lauderdale County. The centralized dispatch center, started in 2000, brings together city and county dispatchers who route all 911 emergency calls to their proper destination, according to information on the county's website.

    LEMA is the coordinating agency for all emergency services in Lauderdale County. Its mission, according to the county's website, is to provide assistance to all agencies having responsibilities in an emergency situation and to ensure that a comprehensive plan to handle emergency situations is in place and all agencies understand their respective roles.     LEMA also applies for grants, and helps manage cleanup of toxic spills that result from accidents, conducts search and rescue operations and responds to weather-related disasters.

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