Wyoming County Now Has a Voting Seat on State 911 Board

During their regular public meeting on March 1, Wyoming County commissioners (seated, from left) Tom Henry, Rick Wilbur, and Ernie King congratulated 911 director Jeff Porter (standing) for his appointment to the state’s 911 Advisory Board.

Story and photos by Rick Hiduk

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Wyoming County 911 director Jeff Porter was recently appointed by Gov. Tom Wolf to the Pennsylvania 911 Advisory Board, which was established in 2015 to advise PEMA on the administration of 911 systems throughout the Commonwealth. Porter will be one of 21 voting members on the board, one of only four representing small, primarily rural counties.

This is a huge thing for this county,” said commissioner Rick Wilbur. Previously, the only advocate that Wyoming County had on the board was Rep. Karen Boback as the chair of the Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee.

Her representation proved especially valuable two years ago, Wilbur noted, when a change in the formula for allotment of 911 funds would have left Wyoming County’s 911 budget nearly $650,000 short. Some expenses were calculated at a flat rate, regardless of the population of counties, which hit the small ones especially hard.

We were looking at losing over 50 percent of our funding,” said Porter, who noted that he had been under consideration for the post for the past two years, nominated by the Pennsylvania chapter of the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) and the state’s chapter of the Association of Public Safety Communications Officers (APCO). His term expires in 2024.

Porter was officially sworn into the role by judge Russell Shurtleff on Monday and will participate in his first meeting in Harrisburg on Thursday, March 3. He will be one of six 911 coordinators on the board, which also includes four county commissioners, the PEMA director, State Police commissioner, State Fire commissioner, and the state’s deputy 911 director.

Other matters of public safety discussed during the commissioners meeting included the appointment of commissioner Tom Henry as the designated agent for PEMA correspondence. Henry, who worked closely with county EMA and PEMA in the wake of the 2011 floods, will handle communications in lieu of retiring EMA director Gene Dziak.

The commissioners also approved and signed an agreement with the Commission of Economic Opportunity to provide homeless assistance cash management and rental assistance services for eligible county residents. The money comes from the Department of Public Welfare and not from the county’s budget.

Commissioner Wilbur related that they recently worked with a “generous local business owner” to help a homeless man find shelter during a snowstorm.

We do have emergency funds available,” Wilbur said of accessing financial assistance for housing needs, drug and alcohol services and situations like this one. “A lot of people don’t know that you can contact the county commissioners to solve a problem like that.” Requests for assistance can be most efficiently handled by calling 911, the staff members of which with then contact the commissioners.

The commissioners agreed that they would like to find a new EMA director “as soon as possible,” and the job application is available on the county’s website, www.wycopa.org.

Commissioner Wilbur said that the job opening will be posted on social media outlets, which have proven more effective at generating interest than newspaper advertising, which he said is too costly. Newspaper ads posted for the recent deputy chief clerk position opening drew no response until the information went out on social media, he explained. Three people have since been interviewed for that job, and the commissioners expect to interview one more person before making their decision.

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