Criminal Justice

Landrieu administration wants to fast-track staffing changes at 911 center

A top aide to Mayor Mitch Landrieu said Tuesday that the city wants to bring all operators at its 911 center under one agency by Jan. 1.

Orleans Parish Communication District leaders said that may be impossible due to state law enabling public participation in governmental budgeting.

Although all 911 operators work at the same call center located by the cemeteries on Canal Blvd., they’re employed by the city’s three emergency response agencies: police, fire and EMS. Each agency handles its own calls.

In order to improve response times, the city has sought for years to move all operators into a single agency and have them handle any type of call.

That will require extensive training and new policies. In order to speed up the transition, Landrieu in April transferred former Deputy Mayor of Public Safety Col. Jerry Sneed out of the Mayor’s Office and made him an advisor on consolidation.

“I have set an ambitious goal of 1 January for consolidation,” Sneed said at a communication district board meeting Tuesday. By then, he said, operators should be able to take all calls, if not yet dispatch all three agencies.

The Communication District must quickly hire two employees to make that deadline: a human resources manager and a training coordinator, according to Sneed and an accompanying letter from First Deputy Mayor and Chief Administrative Officer Andy Kopplin.

In the letter, Kopplin says that the hires won’t impact the communication district’s 2015 budget, funded by fees on landlines and cell phones. Instead, the city will forego about $444,000 that the agency was expected contribute to operator salaries.

“This funding source should provide OPCD [the communication district]  with sufficient funding for these positions through the end of this year,” Kopplin wrote.

In an interview after the meeting, Sneed said he wasn’t sure how much the two new employees would be paid.

The proposal to approve the new positions wasn’t on Tuesday’s agenda and came as a surprise to communication district staff. Executive Director Stephen Gordon told The Lens that Kopplin’s letter arrived less than an hour before the meeting.

The necessary board approval could take months.

During the meeting, OPCD Deputy Director Frith Malin said that because Kopplin’s proposal would affect nearly 10 percent of the agency’s $4.5 million budget this year, state law requires the board to formally amend its budget. The amendment may even have to be approved by the City Council, she said.

Malin said that it may have to wait even beyond the next communication district board meeting, scheduled for September, because its bylaws require such proposals to be held over for one meeting. That means the board couldn’t amend the budget and approve the new hires until November.

Sneed told The Lens that would jeopardize the city’s timeline, adding that the board can call a special meeting to vote on the matters. Sneed said he wasn’t sure how much time the new employees would need to prepare for consolidation.

“The more time we have to work on things, the better off we’re going to be,” Sneed said.

Dr. James Aiken, sitting in for LSU hospital board member Dr. Juzar Ali, said he was concerned that the Landrieu administration is pressing forward without input from the communication district. Aiken proposed that Sneed and other city officials meet with communication district staff before moving ahead. The board approved his proposal unanimously.

“I’m not hearing that this letter came from a shared effort,” Aiken said. “I think it’s our responsibility to at least advise and be part of the process.”

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About Charles Maldonado

Charles Maldonado covers the city of New Orleans and other local government bodies. He previously worked for Gambit, New Orleans’ alternative newsweekly, where he covered city hall, criminal justice and public health. Before moving to New Orleans, he covered state and local government for weekly papers in Nashville and Knoxville, Tenn.

  • nickelndime

    Exactly how does The City “fast-track” 911! Is that like an oxymoron or a riddle. BTW, Sarah Bernhard will be in The City this week, and the last time she was here, yo’ girl polarized the audience at THE HOUSE OF BLUES following the 911 ordeal. You got to love this girl. She keeps it real – #Blessed – loud snorkeling sounds coming from the fountain in the Courtyard…Get outta dere, ASP. You know you can’t swim in treated water. Dis ain’t the Nile. 06/15/2015 12:15 AM DST USA

  • nickelndime

    Jesus H. Holy Count of Monte Cristo, my ASP was all wet and his tail touched da Vote Up! I would un-do this, but have you ever tried to dry off yo’ wet ASP! Let it ride. 06/15/2015 12:22 AM DST USA

  • nickelndime

    I know! I know! My ASP should not be swimming in the courtyard fountain, unsupervised (hotel lifeguard not on duty), but why are two minor children “swimmlng with sharks” on the Atlantic Coast?! One of the sharks (who was tagged – if the shark was tagged, it probably has a name) was last seen leaving the scene of the crime…what’s going on here! Do we score 1 for the sharks. The boy lost his arm; the girl will probably lose part of her leg. “nickelndime” doesn’t have children – and this is another wake-up call (and it ain’t no ENTERGY wake-up call like we done [expletive-deleted] yo power and now we is going to restore you),
    06/15/2015 3:30 AM DST USA

  • nickelndime

    There is something “going on” on the Atlantic coast. Within “Chaos Theory,” there are no random SHARK attacks. It’s like Freud – there are no accidents. ASP’s relatives have been around since the beginning of “human” existence. If anybody can predict the future, a Snake surely can. Look at what Gawd did – Gawd send da best into “The Garden of Eden” – the Snake – but then, the humans – look at them. EASY PEASEY. LMAspO! 06/17/2015 11:40 PM DST USA.