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WEMA growing out of station
Jun 15, 2006 12:00 am
June 8, 2006 – Wilson Emergency Management Agency Director Jerry McFarland said Tuesday the agency is rapidly outgrowing its headquarters off Oak Street in Lebanon and is in dire need of an expansion.
McFarland told the county's emergency management committee currently three employees work out of the facility's kitchen and important records are stored in an aging trailer parked outside the Lebanon station.
"HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) records are stored in a tractor-trailer truck with water leaking in on them," he said.
McFarland said the answer to overcrowding could lie just across the street from WEMA headquarters in the form of a nearby church which recently closed its doors – West View Church of the Nazarene.
Although the WEMA director is unsure whether the former church building is for sale, McFarland asked the committee "bless" his plans to look into the property's availability.
"They (the church) closed two weeks ago, and I don't know the disposition on that facility," McFarland said, "but, geographically, that facility is desirable … The sanctuary would be ideal to convert to a county training room that the sheriff could use, and there are five rooms in there that could be used as office space."
In WEMA's headquarters, classrooms designed to seat 18 employees often hold 35 to 40 employees, McFarland said, adding the facility is "bursting at the seams like the (Wilson County) courthouse was two years ago."
The emergency management committee gave McFarland the go-ahead to gather more information about the former church and asked he bring his findings to the county's public works committee.
"If that (the Oak Street facility) is going to be the headquarters for the foreseeable future, it would stand to reason that you're going to need more room," EMA Committee Chairman Bob Lannom said.
In other business, the committee voted unanimously to send WEMA's proposed 2006-07 budget and needs assessment to the Wilson County Financial Management Committee.
WEMA Finance Officer Rick Woodward explained the proposed WEMA budget for next year is roughly $6.5 million – up $600,000 over the 2005-06 budget. The increase can largely be attributed to rises in fuel and utility costs, he explained.
The agency's needs assessment included requests for two additional dispatchers, an information technology specialist and a 3-percent "cost of living" salary increase for WEMA employees.
An estimate regarding the cost of the requested pay increase was not available Tuesday.
McFarland noted the personnel requests ranked high on the list of the agency's needs.
"We truly need two additional dispatchers," he said. " … Five dispatchers can't cover 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So, we're filling in with regular employees."
And, as emergency management operations become increasingly high-tech, McFarland said an information technology specialist is also sorely needed.
"The sheriff has the same problem I have," McFarland said, noting the county's jail also houses an "extensive" computer network. " … The county needs to get some IT (information technology) people – maybe we can share one."
Staff Writer Brian Harville can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 16 or by e-mail at email@example.com.