City supports county choice for EMA post

Sheriff Eddie a Scott makes recommendation to selectmen
Staff Writer

Instead of breaking off the city's interlocal agreement with Clay County, West Point Selectmen Tuesday night followed the county's lead and named Torrey Williams to replace Kerrie Gentry-Blissard as emergency management director.

Gentry-Blissard is retiring next month.

But selectmen say they do want to talk with county supervisors about the financial split for the agency. The city currently provided $70,000 of the $91,000 budget, including $5,000 to pay the assistant director. The county provides $21,000 but that comes from a state grant and not local tax dollars.

"It's quite unfair," Mayor Robbie Robinson said Tuesday night.

"It comes down to financial responsibility," Selectman Jasper Pittman said.

Selectman William Binder urged Robinson to set up a meeting with supervisors to discuss funding and ovesight.

During a study session Monday night, Robinson urged Selectmen to consider ending the partnership but that issue never came up during Tuesday night's regular meeting.

Robinson's suggestion came after Clay supervisors bucked a committee's recommendation and named Williams to the local EMA post. Tuesday night, Sheriff Eddie Scott, who chairs the Local Emergency Management Advisory Committee, told Selectmen a committee of three EMA directors from the region interviewed six applicants on April 19 and recommended hiring Tracy Pharr, a 15-year veteran of emergency management and area coordinator for the state.

But that recommendation got little support. Selectmen Leta Turner then recommended the city follow supervisors' lead and hire Williams. Selectmen Ken Polle Williams, a former Clay E-911 dispatcher who now dispatches for Oktibbeha 911. He is a Clay County resident, has EMA experience and works some with the Oktibbeha County EMA, is in paramedic school and is chief of the Clay County's Unit 100 Volunteer Fire Department. The advisory council had recommended he be named assistant EMA director.

Supervisors said given the qualifications, they preferred giving a local person the opportunity rather than hiring someone who would have to move to the county.

County E-911 Director Treva Hodge, who supervisors renamed assistant EMA Director, and Williams were at an EMA conference in Jackson Tuesday.

He is expected to start work in two weeks.