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County could relocate emergency offices

By Staff
NEEDS MORE SPACE Clarence Butler sits in the small radio room at 1319 23rd Ave., the building that now houses offices of the Lauderdale County Emergency Management Agency, the Lauderdale County Volunteer Fire Departments and Lauderdale County Homeland Security. Butler, who supervises each of those offices, is looking forward to having more space possibly in the nearby BellSouth building on the corner of 14th Street and 26th Avenue. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
Sept. 24, 2003
When Clarence Butler came to work for Lauderdale County in 1990, he said more office and training space was needed for county emergency services.
Thirteen years later, more space will likely become available after the first of the year, according to Butler and Lauderdale County supervisors Craig Hitt and Joe Norwood.
Hitt and Norwood want to move Butler's operation from 1319 23rd Ave. to the BellSouth building on the corner of 14th Street and 26th Avenue. Supervisors are scheduled to formally purchase the building Tuesday.
Supervisors voted earlier this month to borrow $415,000 to buy the BellSouth building. Hitt said the short-term loan includes the $395,000 cost of the BellSouth building plus closing costs.
Butler's responsibilities
Butler wears three hats in the county's emergency management gamut.
He serves as Lauderdale County's volunteer fire department coordinator, Lauderdale County Emergency Management Agency director and Lauderdale County's Homeland Security officer.
Hitt said the county has leased the lower floor of the BellSouth building for several years, housing the county Emergency 911 system and the county's building permit office.
In addition to fire services, LEMA and Homeland Security offices, Hitt said part of the county's child support office with the Department of Human Services also could move to the BellSouth building.
Agency needs
A large meeting area is one of the most important reasons Butler said he needs more space.
Butler said he hopes the move would allow more space for the emergency communications room, or radio room, where in emergency situations various department heads and officials can work together to coordinate emergency responders.
Norwood called the building a good investment for the county.
Norwood added that other offices in the county are in need of more space including the sheriff's department, which he said needs more room to store evidence as well as additional office space.
Lauderdale County received approval Tuesday for a $38,200 grant from the office of Homeland Security to purchase protective equipment.
The money will but the following items:
Suits for handling hazardous materials
Breathing devices, such as gas masks, to be used in case of hazardous condition
Handheld wireless weather stations that show wind direction, velocity and speed
Decontamination equipment to wash off toxic materials from emergency responders or injured people before being transported to a hospital
Several pairs of binoculars
Clarence Butler, Lauderdale County Homeland Security officer, said he had worked with Lauderdale County Sheriff Billy Sollie and Metro Ambulance director and Lauderdale County Deputy Coroner Clayton Cobler in deciding what equipment was most needed.
Butler said he wants to get law enforcement officers as well as emergency medical service people trained and qualified to handle hazardous situations along with firefighters.
Steve Gillespie