Howard names head of 911 center County operation's first chief was fired

March 18, 1993|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Staff Writer

Howard County officials have selected a Washington, D.C., safety administrator to head the county's 911 communications center, which faced a series of problems after opening in 1991.

John Hampton, a Howard County resident, will begin work March 22 as director of the county's Bureau of Central Communications, said County Administrator Raquel Sanudo. He'll be paid about $50,000 to run the center, she said.

Mr. Hampton currently serves as acting deputy fire chief, communications director for the Fire and Emergency Management System, and director of the Emergency Communications Center in Washington, Ms. Sanudo said.

He joined the city's Fire and Emergency Management System in 1971, Ms. Sanudo said.

"He's had hands-on experience, and he has a wealth of knowledge in the area of communications," Ms. Sanudo said. "He appears to be a hands-on type of person.

"I think his experience will be invaluable."

Mr. Hampton could not be reached for comment.

Ms. Sanudo said 187 candidates nationwide had applied for the position. But a five-member panel narrowed the field to three, she said.

Sgt. Richard Witte, who has been acting director of the county communications center, will return to the county Police Department, Ms. Sanudo said.

"He's done an excellent job," she said.

Mr. Hampton replaces the center's first director, Paul N. Hajek, who was fired in October.

Shortly after Mr. Hajek was ousted, management of the center was transferred from under the Department of General Services to the control of the county administrator.

An overload of calls to the center last year produced criticism after emergency callers told of receiving recordings when they dialed 911. The county responded by establishing a separate, nonemergency number (313-2200) in January. The nonemergency number is what residents use to report stolen bicycles, abandoned vehicles or other nonserious crimes or activities.

The center, which has a $2.1 million operating budget, opened in September 1991 as a cost-effective step that for the first time had fire and police dispatchers working under the same roof.

Ms. Sanudo said Mr. Hampton will ease into his new job. He has no immediate plans for changes at the center, she said, adding that he wants to evaluate the system.

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