By Michael Jacobs
The joint 911 center for Sandy Springs and Johns Creek is on schedule to go live at midnight July 30 as “construction is moving at a profoundly rapid pace,” the head of the contractor team for the center reported to the Chattahoochee River 911 Authority on April 24.
Work on the facility at Barfield Road and Mount Vernon Highway in Sandy Springs, implementation and configuration of computer systems, and hiring of the staff are keeping up with the tight deadlines of the rollout, said Keith Kearns of contractor iXP Georgia.
“Folks are going to be very happy with their new home,” he said.
Much of the work of the two-man Chattahoochee River 911 Authority (Chatcomm) — Chairman John Kachmar, the city manager of Johns Creek, and Vice Chairman Terry Sult, the police chief of Sandy Springs — revolves around the minutiae of creating a government entity from scratch.
For example, Kearns urged quick action for the authority to secure its state sales tax exemption. As soon as the 911 service goes live, the authority will become the owner of millions of dollars in high-tech equipment, and Kearns said he’d hate for iXP to have to collect sales tax on that equipment.
Kachmar said the savings, built into the authority’s budget, could total $300,000. Authority counsel Ray Smith III didn’t foresee any problems getting the exemption.
Chatcomm’s funding will come from the 911 fee collected by phone carriers, wired and wireless. But Chatcomm can’t get that money until its 911 service is operational. The goal is to have the service running the final day of July so there’s no question Chatcomm deserves the 911 revenues for August.
Sandy Springs Assistant City Manager Noah Reiter said the authority could accumulate $25,000 in bills for such things as legal fees and logo design work before the revenue starts flowing. To date, Sandy Springs has paid the bills in anticipation of some reimbursement. The authority might ask iXP to share that burden as well.
Kearns said iXP is ready to set up the authority’s Web site by securing a range of Chatcomm addresses, such as Chatcomm.net, Chatcomm.org and the somewhat awkward Chatcomm.com. One of the governments behind Chatcomm will have to lock down Chatcomm.gov.
Most likely, Chatcomm.org will be the main Web address, and other variants will redirect people to that URL.
Chatcomm approved its logo and seal at the April 24 meeting. The logo will appear on letterhead, business cards, shirts and most other informal uses. The seal, which has a ring around a version of the logo and adds “established 2009,” will be reserved for formal uses such as the door to the facility. It also might appear on coins commemorating the 911 center’s opening, with logos of Sandy Springs and Johns Creek on the backs of the coins.
The logo is not free of controversy, albeit light-hearted: It uses blue and orange, the colors of the University of Florida. Kachmar said the Johns Creek fire chief, for one, was pushing for red in place of the orange.
“I thought we killed that thing (color scheme) last meeting,” Sandy Springs City Manager John McDonough said.
“That’s gold, not orange,” Kearns joked.
The authority also emancipated interim secretary Kathy Williams, who works for Sandy Springs City Attorney Wendell Willard, by electing a permanent secretary. At Kachmar’s suggestion, his administrative assistant, Elizabeth Warren, will serve as Chatcomm secretary for the rest of 2009, then Sandy Springs will supply the secretary for 2010.
The more important hiring, to staff the 911 center, is taking place on a rolling basis and will continue through and beyond the center’s go-live date, said iXP’s Joe Estey, who is overseeing the process.
Estey said iXP has processed some 200 résumés from applicants for 53 jobs. Some are experienced 911 operators; others are people looking for any employment in the recession.
As a private employer, iXP has some flexibility on wages, and Kearns declined to reveal the starting pay for publication. He said, “The wage and benefit packages for this operation have been set so they are competitive with these kinds of positions in this region.”
He and Estey said they’re seeking people drawn by the opportunities of a start-up operation, not by a specific salary.
“This is a performance-based operation,” Estey said. People who excel will be rewarded; people who don’t pass muster won’t be around long.