Emergency management post created

Departments restructured to reflect voters' concerns

March 07, 2003|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The county commissioners said yesterday they intend to hire an "emergency management coordinator" to ensure that Carroll is prepared for any potential disaster.

Revealing more details of their planned restructuring of county government, the commissioners said the coordinator would serve as a liaison between the Office of Public Safety and fire and emergency services.

The commissioners stopped short of saying they added the contractual post in response to criticism from volunteer firefighters and emergency service workers about Howard "Buddy" Redman Jr., the county's director of public safety.

"Let's just say all the recent complaints pointed out the fact that we were stretched thin," said Commissioner Dean L. Minnich. "We are hoping to have someone in place quickly."

Commissioner Perry L. Jones Jr. said the new coordinator would help Redman.

"Over the years, there were too many add-ons to Buddy's job duties," Jones said.

The county has an emergency response plan that dates to the 1950s and was most recently revised in 1998.

"But we don't have something currently attuned with the problems of today," said Steven D. Powell, county chief of staff. "It is more like the old Civil Defense mindset. We have to modify it to address world issues such as 9/11/01."

Carroll officials have become increasingly concerned with security.

In a closed session yesterday, they met with Larry L. Leitch, Health Department director, to discuss proposed responses to bioterrorism. At a 10 a.m. public session Monday, Leitch will give an update on ways the county might react to a smallpox threat.

The emergency management coordinator will be a contractual hire, paid about $50,000 annually.

"We are looking for someone with the technical skills to bring us into this century," said Powell. "Carroll never thought bioterror or manmade disaster would be applicable to itself. We need the technological resources to create solutions that will be viable over the long term."

Powell orchestrated what he repeatedly called "a reconfiguration" of county government, a proposal the commissioners unanimously adopted yesterday.

"Everyone is already making this happen," said Powell, adding the changes will become official March 27.

Powell stressed that because the plan calls for some vacancies to remain unfilled, its effect on the budget is negligible, with no net job gains or losses.

The approximately $20,000 saved by shifting positions and departments will be used to reconstruct office spaces. The newly formed Bureau of Environment and Resource Protection will be housed in the planning department under Deputy Director James Slater.

"We want to ensure there is an environmental focus and an environmental voice in all the planning we do," said Powell.

Throughout the fall election campaign, the commissioners said they heard repeatedly from residents who wanted a stronger environmental stance from government.

"This is an opportunity to go forward with promises made on campaign trails," said Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge.

Voters also called for more focus on recreation. The changes made a separate department for recreation and parks, previously joined with enterprise services, which now will fall under the Public Works Department.

"We have resurrected recreation and parks to ensure quality of life issues have a strong voice," said Powell. "We have brought back a park planner to ensure facilities are well-designed."

Gary Horst, director of the dismantled recreation and enterprise department, takes over leadership of the Office of Performance Audit and Special Projects and maintains control of airport management.

The county recently hired a zoning administrator and gave the office enforcement power so that "Carroll County grows in the ways we designed it to grow," said Powell. Two administrative associates also are assigned to the department.

All the changes were made after lengthy discussions with the staff, the commissioners said.

"We are using a lot of the same people, but shifting them in different directions," said Gouge. "It is important that we give back to the people what they have asked for."

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