The Knox County Commissioners have hired an interim director to run Central Dispatch after parting ways last month with long-time E-911 director Debbie Schmidtknecht.
Commission president Kellie Streeter announced Tuesday during the commissioners' regular meeting that the E-911 Advisory Committee, comprised of local public safety and elected officials, has hired Rob McMullen, previously the E-911 executive director in Vigo County, to serve as interim director here.
It's a temporary situation, Streeter said, to get the county on its way to running Central Dispatch more efficiently.
“I think Rob will help us find the right person moving forward to be the director of Central Dispatch,” Streeter said. “Up first will be figuring out the job description, how we can delegate better to make that job less stressful.
“In my own personal opinion, it's one of the most stressful jobs in the county. It requires much much patience and professionalism.”
Streeter said last week that the commissioners had decided to end Schmidtknecht's employment. She called it an "amicable" split and that they're simply "going in a different leadership direction."
Streeter reiterated that on Tuesday, saying she didn't want to “downplay” the contributions Schmidtknecht made to Central Dispatch during her nine-year tenure.
More than anything, Streeter said, the entire department needs an overhaul, one she is confident McMullen, who has more than 20 years in law enforcement and public safety, can oversee.
The county, Streeter said, had already been working with McMullen as Vigo County's E-911 system is similar to Knox County's.
McMullen told the commissioners he was excited to get started, but he also called it a “big undertaking.”
“There's a lot to do,” he said. “(Central Dispatch) has been neglected for the last several years, but we'll get it rolling again and see how best to take it into the future. I expect big things.
“And I guarantee Knox County will be at the forefront of E-911 after being on the back burner for a long time.”
In addition to finding a new director, Streeter said McMullen, too, would help the commissioners and Central Dispatch employees set into place new polices and procedures that will make for a smoother E-911 process.
“Even down to how we schedule,” Streeter said. “The staff is open and ready to take (McMullen's) guidance.
“We look forward to keeping you — not forever,” Streeter told McMullen directly, “but at least helping us find the right people to do the job.”
Commissioner Trent Hinkle thought McMullen serving as interim director, too, would buy the commissioners time to make a decision on a new director. It's not one to take lightly, he said.
“We'll be drawing on Rob's expertise and experience in the industry, but it also gives us some time, as a board, to do a thorough search for our next E-911 director,” Hinkle said. “We won't have to be in a big rush about it.”
In other business, highway department director Benji Boyd said a handful of projects are ongoing around Knox County.
He said E&B Paving is about halfway through the county's hot mix asphalt contract, which includes a variety of improvements all over the county. He gets little notice on when they will begin in one area, but Boyd assured commissioners he expects all of that to be done within a month's time.
“It's day-to-day,” he said. “They're doing roads here and there as they're available.”
Boyd, too, said a project to redo what is commonly called the Bicknell Slab — which runs between Bicknell and Wheatland — is set to get underway on Aug. 14.
“But that could change as well with a day of rain,” he said.
He also said Milestone Contractors, the company hired to do the project funded primarily with state grant dollars, won't close the entire road, thereby reducing the number of traffic headaches.
Boyd also reported that work on Bridge 156, located on Oaktown Road, is set to reopen by the end of the month, and Bridge 135 on Freelandville Road is set to close today for an 8-10 week replacement project.
The commissioners also on Tuesday accepted a resignation from Bill Cleveland from the county's health board. State law dictates certain expertise for each seat on the health board; Cleveland, who owns a local pest-control business, served the role of offering guidance on bugs and, more specifically, mosquito-elimination programs.
Anyone with that kind of expertise and an interest of serving on that board should send the commissioners a letter of interest via the auditor's office, 111 N. Seventh St.
The commissioners, too, recognized highway department employee Frank Wollard with its inaugural “Distinguished Service Award.” The award will be given to “outstanding employees” as they are nominated by county department heads.
Wollard serves as the road foreman in the Freelandville district, and Boyd described him as the department's “go-to guy.”
“When any of us, including me, need to know something, how to do something, something we’re not familiar with, we go to Frankie,” Boyd said. “I dearly appreciate him.”