By Henry Bailey, The Commercial Appeal
Original publication date: Aug. 17, 2011
DESOTO — DeSoto’s Emergency 911 District, an agency that’s staked the future of first-response calls on high-tech communication, is saying “howdy” from folksy new administrative digs at 1040 Star Landing Road near Nesbit.
“Put a couple rocking chairs out front, and you can compete with Cracker Barrel,” Supervisor Bill Russell joked as he greeted E-911 assistant director Debby Dunnaway .
He joined a throng of county officials and members of the first-response community at an open house Tuesday at E-911’s first home of its own in its 23-year existence.
The $643,000, 3,600-square-foot structure, built by local firm Murphy and Sons, is upscale residential in appearance, in keeping with the neighborhood, with an appealing Arkansas stone and cedar exterior.
Inside, it’s basic but spacious: a meeting room that can hold 100 people for sessions of the seven-member E-911 Commission or for classes or planning, a kitchen area, storage space and three offices. One is occupied by Dunnaway, another by E-911 director Jesse Kennedy.
The reviews were as warm as the design.
“It’s wonderful,” said County Administrator Michael Garriga. “The citizens of DeSoto County deserve first-rate facilities, and this is one of them.”
Horn Lake Police Chief Darryl Whaley, an E-911 panel member, praised the central location and having “offices right here by the tower equipment.”
Other good news to taxpayers: There’s no debt on the site. The building and its $25,000 in furnishings and appliances were paid for through monthly E-911 surcharges – 80 cents on land-line phones and $1 on cell phones – that accrued over the years.
“Statewide, most counties have gone to a $1 surcharge on land-lines, but our rate has never changed,” Dunnaway said.
DeSoto’s E-911 operates five dispatch centers, one in each of the county’s five municipalities, and four towers – in Olive Branch, Southaven, Hernando and near the Star Landing site.
“It’s been 12 years in the making, hasn’t it, Bob?” Dunnaway asked Bob Lincoln, who retired about two years ago from the commission.
Lincoln, of Olive Branch, came aboard “at the beginning” around 1988: “When the Supervisors voted for the commission they gave us $75 to get it started,” he recalled.
What can you do with $75?
“We bought postage,” Lincoln said.
He said the E-911 panel met first in the County Courthouse in Hernando. From about 15 years ago until late May’s move-in on Star Landing, the agency had its headquarters in a cramped, two-room suite of less than 500 square feet next to a real estate office at 2575 McCracken Road.
“You could fit the whole place in my office and the foyer,” Dunnaway said.