Morgan plans to hire EMS director

August 29, 1997


Staff Writer, Martinsburg

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - The Morgan County Commission may hire an emergency services director today, the first step in upgrading its 911 system.

Commission President Phil Maggio said the two major options being examined are joining with Berkeley County's system, which is in the process of being upgraded, or making improvements to the existing dispatch system at War Memorial Hospital.

Maggio said applicants for the part-time emergency services position were interviewed Wednesday night and someone could be hired at today's meeting. The director would then serve as a liaison between the county administrator and the various groups involved in the upgrade.


If the county decides to join with Berkeley County, "we'd be able to join forces with an already successful 911 system," Maggio said. A decision on that is expected by Nov. 1.

Morgan County already has 911 service for Bell Atlantic customers in the eastern part of the county, but residents who have a 947 exchange with Citizens Telecom in the western portion must dial either 947-9911 or 258-9911 to get central dispatch. Enhanced 911 would eliminate that problem and also give dispatchers automatic location identification, along with other pertinent information about the home or business.

To do that, however, the county would have to create a rural address system "that would identify all properties clearly and systematically," Maggio said. That would involve renaming or naming roads and assigning addresses, which Berkeley County is in the process of doing for its 911 upgrade.

By Dec. 1, a 911 committee should be formed that will decide on a special levy for the upgrade, develop a budget and draft an ordinance, Maggio said. That would be followed by public hearings that would be held after the beginning of the year.

Maggio said the preliminary schedule calls for "solidifying the agreements with Bell Atlantic and Citizens Telecom" by Feb. 1, 1998.

The timing for a referendum on the special levy will be discussed today, Maggio said. He said it's possible it could be held in a special election prior to the May primary. He thinks that with volunteer help from emergency services personnel at the polls, a special election could be held earlier and cost between $3,000 and $5,000.

The special one-time levy would be for between $180,000 and $220,000, Maggio said. That money would be used to improve the existing dispatch center, begin the rural address system and buy new road signs.

Even if Morgan County joined the Berkeley County system, Maggio said some improvements would have to be made at the existing dispatch center, because the county would have to maintain the ability to dispatch from within its borders in an emergency.

"A person's vote to support 911 financially would demonstrate they believe it's an intelligent investment for the community," he said.

Maggio said the monthly 911 line fee for each telephone customer would be about $2,000. There are approximately 6,000 telephone lines in the county, he said.

The county wants to begin the rural address system by June of next year, but "we don't have an idea right now how long that will take," Maggio said.

"Our goal is to have full implementation in place by the year 2000," he added.

The Herald-Mail Articles