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Kanawha sheriff may oversee Metro 911

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Members of the Kanawha County Metro 911 Executive Board are expected to vote today on a proposal to transfer oversight of the Metro 911 Center to the Kanawha County Sheriff's Department.

Metro 911 Director Johnny Rutherford, in the office since August, will be leaving 911 in January to serve as Kanawha County Sheriff. Rutherford, brother of current Sheriff Mike Rutherford, was elected to the office last month.

But the 911 Center is in the middle of a major overhaul, including the installation of a completely new computer dispatch system and an all-new telephone system.

Rick Atkinson, president of the 911 executive board, said Rutherford has overseen much of the recent work on the new systems. Atkinson, Yeager Airport's director, said it just makes sense to keep Rutherford in charge of Metro at least until the work is finished.

"We are at a critical phase," Atkinson said Wednesday. "If the board goes along with it, this is an opportunity for keeping [Rutherford's] expertise and leadership, saving the 911 center some money, and not having to go through another [leadership] transition."

Jennifer Sayre, the Kanawha County Commission's representative on the seven-member 911 board, said Metro officials would have to work out an intergovernmental agreement with the sheriff's department to allow oversight of the Metro 911 Center. Sayre said the agreement would be revisited once a year, and Rutherford would continue to report to the 911 executive board. The 911 board would retain control of Metro's finances.

Atkinson said it's still unclear whether Rutherford would retain the title of 911 director under the agreement, or if another director would have to be appointed.

Rutherford said he would not be paid any additional money to oversee the 911 center, but agreed it made sense to remain involved in the overhaul.

"There's no intention for the sheriff's department to take over the management of Metro," he said. "But we've made a lot of progress over the last six months.

"We need to keep going in the same direction because there are so many projects ongoing."

Rutherford said the new computer dispatch system is supposed to start operation in March, followed by several months of fine-tuning. Installation of an entirely new telephone system is expected to start shortly thereafter.

Members of the 911 Executive Board include Atkinson; Sayre; current Sheriff Mike Rutherford; Sen. Dan Foster, D-Kanawha; John Wells and Grant Gunnoe and Bob Sharp from the city of Charleston.

Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.


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