Rich Hays slated to take lead at Washington County EMA

MARIETTA — The county’s 911 director has accepted the position of director of the Emergency Management Agency, it was announced at Thursday’s meeting of the county commissioners.

Lt. Rich Hays with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office will take over the job that was vacated by Glen Kelly in August. Starting salary for Hays will be $24.46 an hour with a 75-cent-an-hour increase after 90 days.

That’s more than Kelly’s salary of $36,000, which also did not provide health coverage for Kelly who had coverage outside of the county. Hays will continue to oversee the duties of the county 911 office and maintain his benefits.

“We made an agreement to split the administrative duties of 911 and EMA,” said Commissioner Ron Feathers. “(Hays) is fully funded through 911 right now and all we will be doing is taking $1 an hour from the EMA account until Dec. 31; during the budget cycle is when we will determine that split.”

Commissioners said at last week’s meeting that Hays was chosen out of three candidates who were interviewed for the position. He will start as EMA director on Monday.

“The first months will be the busiest transition from my supervisor duties at the sheriff’s office, getting another employee trained on duties that were assigned to me from the dispatch operations. On my 911 duties after the completion of the current NG-911 project it will be the normal assigning of the 911 addressing,” Hays said. “The EMA director’s position is going to be learning experience that will take time to digest. The main priorities at first will be completing physical inventory, looking at the current Emergency Operations Plan and operations for the Emergency Operation Center.”

Also at Thursday’s meeting, Dick Wittberg, the county health commissioner, presented an update to Commissioners Feathers, David White and Rick Walters that was well-received.

“During a low point at the (county) health department two or three years ago we had 10 people that worked at the health department and we have 21 people that work there now,” Wittberg said. “We are generating a lot of jobs for Washington County — not that we’re a major employer — but I’m working toward it. These are all positions that we are getting through grant funding and a variety of sources.”

Another position Wittberg hopes to create would focus on school outreach.

“One of the programs would use the classroom to reinforce good behavior and quelch bad behavior; it’s not just the teachers doing it but it gets the whole class involved,” he said. “We’ll be teaming that with a teen pregnancy program that the school superintendents came to me and asked if we would present.”

Commissioners also heard from Wittberg about wanting to get feedback from the community on a Tobacco to 21 program that would require voters to approve a measure moving the legal age to purchase cigarettes.

“The end point is not to get the commissioners to pass the legislation but simply to go out and find out what the public opinion is; it would have to be Belpre, Marietta and the county commission passing it, so that’s quite a high expectation,” Wittberg said.