Responders, 911 Center thanked by commission

NEW CUMBERLAND — Praise was given to Hancock County’s first responders and 911 Center, Thursday, following last week’s shooting incidents in the county.

“It is unfortunate that we had to experience this type of act (Wednesday) night, but that’s exactly why dispatchers, police officers, firemen, they train. The only thing I can say is thank y’all,” said Commissioner Jeff Davis.

During the meeting Tracy Lemley, the director of the 911 Center, updated the commission on the efficiency of her team during Wednesday’s shooting incidents. Typically only three dispatchers are scheduled to work a shift. There were five working Wednesday night. The two additional dispatchers arrived without being asked and Lemley reported her entire team was letting her know they were available if she needed them.

“This group of dispatchers was awesome (Wednesday) night,” Lemley said. “I have five working positions and they were all cool and they were at high demand. I cannot be more proud of my team, they excelled and brought everyone home safely and that’s what’s important.”

Sheriff Ralph Fletcher spoke highly of the communication and teamwork between the 911 center, his deputies and the assisting departments.

During the meeting Bob Vidas, executive director of the Hancock County Office ofTechnology and Communications, reported the center answered 155 phone calls and made 1,977 radio transmission during the three hours the shootings occurred.

“At one point a dispatcher says ‘I’m sorry Sheriff Fletcher, I’m kind of busy.’ Of course, I know he’s busy. I could hear my radio crackling and I could hear noise in the background, and to be honest with you, I just smiled because I know what’s going on in that 911 center. I know chaotic out in the street, chaotic in those little rooms.” said Fletcher.

The sheriff’s department received help from a number of local departments, including police departments in Chester, New Cumberland, Weirton, East Liverpool and Saline Township. The Brooke County Sheriff’s Department, West Virginia State Police, the state Division of Natural Resources Law Enforcement and the ATF also assisted. Help also came from the fire departments in New Manchester, Chester and New Cumberland, and ambulance services came from Hancock County and Northstar Ambulance.

“Everything was smooth as far as that goes, people weren’t stepping on each other, we weren’t bumping into each other, the out of towners were asking the county ‘how do we get here, there’ they were going to places they had no idea where it was, and it worked well. No complaints. I don’t know how to thank these people enough,” Fletcher said.

Lemley also thanked the commission for the training they let the dispatchers take. A number of dispatchers at the center had recently taken an active shooter training, and she attributes that training to the center’s success during Wednesday’s incidents.

“I can tell you, us three were in conversation, and our prayers were with you and our prayers were answered,” said Joe Barnabei, commission president. “Thank you to all of you again, and I hope it doesn’t happen again, but in today’s world, we just don’t know.”

In other business, the commission:

• Voted to hire Michael Watkins as a full-time dispatcher at the 911 Center.

• Voted to pay Miranda Keeder, who resigned in July from the 911 Center, for her accrued vacation time.

• Voted to table updates and amendments to the county’s cemetery policy and the county’s abandoned building ordinance policy.

• Approved the family court memorandum of understanding for the 2019-2020 fiscal year.

• Approved the provider agreement with Donald Kissinger on behalf of juvenile mediation.

• Voted to hire Hope Dennis as the full-time administrative assistant at the county animal shelter.

The commission also heard from Robert Cheeks, who attended the meeting to update the commission on the status of the joint Hancock and Brooke County DAV transportation program. He relayed information about the Brooke County Commission resolution to assist the program. He told the commission that Brooke County is willing to pay, but are determining the payment schedule and how to write the checks. Cheeks also said he is training another driver and they plan to only offer transport four days a week.

(Riedel can be contacted at jriedel@reviewonline.com)