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Kanawha Metro 911 oversight transferred to sheriff

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha County's Metro 911 center will fall under the direction of the county sheriff's department beginning on Jan. 1.

The Metro 911 Executive Board voted at a special meeting Thursday to approve an intergovernmental agreement turning over management of the county's 911 center to the sheriff. The move means that sheriff-elect Johnny Rutherford, who has been 911 director since August, will remain at the helm of Metro 911 after he moves into the sheriff's office. Rutherford was elected sheriff last month.

Metro is in the midst of a $2 million overhaul that includes a completely new computerized dispatch system and an all-new telephone system. Metro 911 board members said they didn't want to have to find a new executive director in the middle of the changeover.

"This has worked out well," board president Rick Atkinson said. "In the next six or eight months, it would be a disaster to bring someone in while we're doing this [technology] transition."

Under the plan, Rutherford will choose one of the existing deputy 911 directors for the post of executive director, but "the sheriff will be the one providing the leadership," Atkinson said.

The arrangement will be similar to the relationship the sheriff has with the chief tax deputy, who is in charge of the county tax collection department but still answers to the sheriff.

Rutherford will report to the 911 board.

The agreement will be voted on yearly, and both sides have a 60-day escape clause if either decides the deal isn't working out.

The vote effectively halts a search for a new executive director, who would have been appointed when Rutherford left to fill the sheriff's seat. Atkinson said Metro got 19 résumés from people interested in the position, but that Rutherford was the most qualified to continue the work undertaken on his watch.

Board members said the agreement will save having to pay for a new executive director, who would make about $105,000 a year, including benefits. Rutherford's selection probably will get a raise, but the cost will be far less than hiring a new person.

Rutherford will receive no additional compensation for overseeing the 911 system. As sheriff, the most he will make is about $59,000, a substantial pay cut.

In addition to Atkinson, Metro 911 Executive Board members include Sen. Dan Foster, D-Kanawha; John Wells; Jennifer Sayre and Sheriff Mike Rutherford, representing the Kanawha County Commission; and Bob Sharp and Grant Gunnoe, representing the city of Charleston.

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


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