As progress continues in the formation of a new 911 emergency call system in Texas County, the seven-member board overseeing the project is conducting a thorough search for a director.
Texas County Emergency Services Board member Jim McNiell said the search has no negative reflection on the soon-to-be-defunct Wri-Tex 911 and its current director Donna Robertson, who has held the position since 2006. Robertson has been with Wri-Tex 911 since its inception in 1995 and worked under previous director Carol Ann Freeman, who is now chairperson for the county’s Emergency Services Board.
“When you have a new board, you come in and open it up to anybody and everybody,” McNiell said. “It’s not to say that the current Wri-Tex 911 director won’t get the job – she’ll be given the opportunity to apply like everyone else and be given the utmost consideration. We’ll have to have more dispatchers, too, and the current ones will go through a similar process.
“Their experience will certainly be a plus for them and carries a lot of weight, but that’s all with Wri-Tex and we basically have nothing to do with Wri-Tex. We’re pretty much starting from scratch.”
McNiell said Robertson has even been attending Emergency Services board meetings.
“She’s always very helpful to us in presenting things to consider and what the needs are,” he said. “It’s a good thing to have her there.”
The board has an advertisement in this week’s Messenger section in the Houston Herald, saying applications for director will be accepted through Oct. 27. McNiell said the ad would likely also run in other regional publications.
The county’s new 911 system is being funded by a 3/8-cent sales tax approved by county voters in April. It went on the books Oct. 1. A new call center will be in the old jail space inside the Texas County Administrative Center on Main Street in downtown Houston.
McNiell said the contract for refurbishing the space should be released soon by the Texas County Commission, and that four slightly used call center consoles have been purchased for only $750 apiece after Carthage and Jasper County merged their 911 centers and the equipment was no longer needed there.
“They have all the bells and whistles,” McNiell said. “They’re in excellent shape and units like that go for thousands of dollars.”
Texas County’s new 911 system is a result of Wright County officials’ decision last year to end an agreement that formed the two-county Wri-Tex 911 system in 1995. The existing call center is on the Texas County Memorial Hospital campus. McNiell said the board will assume control of it when existing Wri-Tex funding runs out, perhaps before the end of the year.
“We’re not making decisions that affect Wri-Tex,” he said. “We’re making decisions for the future of the new Texas County Emergency Services 911 system. We may not be ready by the first of the year to start in our new location, but we’re looking forward to getting started and we know this will be something to be proud of. Right now we’re just trying to do everything we can to make sure the employees there are well equipped and in position to do the best possible job for the people of Texas County.”
“We want to make sure we get this right, and we’re not jumping into anything too quickly. We’re taking our time, but we know things have to be done.”