Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Dispatch director resigns

Beth English to relocate in Texas

Express Staff Writer

County E-911 Communications Director Beth English, above, will leave Blaine County for Rowlett, Texas, this week to take a position with the Rowlett Police Department. Photo by Willy Cook

Another level of uncertainty has been added to the discussions over Blaine County emergency communications functions, as county E-911 Director Beth English has resigned from her position.

English said her three-year stint at the county would end Thursday. She and her husband will then move to Rowlett, Texas—a suburb of Dallas—to serve as Director of Communications for the Rowlett Police Department.

Complicating the issue of English's resignation is the unresolved status of Blaine County Emergency Communications funding and operations.

Blaine County and the cities of Hailey and Sun Valley are still working to develop a funding mechanism for consolidated dispatch that is viewed as fair by all parties.

Hailey Mayor Fritz Haemmerle said it's possible the cities of Hailey and Bellevue may still choose to form their own dispatch center for "administrative" calls—calls that do not require emergency response and involve running license checks and other nonemergency tasks.

English said her resignation has nothing to do with the dispatch dispute and is solely personal.

"Although I'm getting younger every day, [my husband and I] have aging relatives near Dallas," she said. "It's gotten to the point where we can't take care of them from here."

Blaine County dispatcher Robin Stellers, who has been with the county for four years, will serve as interim director of emergency communications. English said the county would launch a nationwide search for a new director, who she said she hopes will be in place within the next few months.

Wood River Fire & Rescue Chief Bart Lassman said he didn't think English's resignation would affect the current dispatch discussions, but discussions could be impacted if a replacement is not found quickly.

"They need to have somebody in that position," Lassman said. "It's critical that someone oversees [those discussions] that understands the needs of the users."

Lassman said the dispatch center has been plagued by turnover, which may have impeded some updates to the communications equipment.

"We've been going through some changes, first with Bob [Greenlaw, the former director] leaving, and it seems like they are having a hard time keeping a director employed," he said. "I'll miss her."

He said English has made several improvements to the county's dispatch systems, particularly updating computer software and equipment to keep dispatchers from having to flip through a set of cards describing symptoms with each medical call.

English said she hates to leave the county, as commissioners and staff have consistently supported her efforts to improve emergency communications.

"We're all focused on the same thing," she said. "I love the area, I love the people I work with. I'm just not ready to leave."

Katherine Wutz:

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