Former interim Director of Routt County Communications J.P. Harris has been promoted to the director position. His former position will not be filled because of a countywide hiring freeze.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Former interim Director of Routt County Communications J.P. Harris has been promoted to the director position. His former position will not be filled because of a countywide hiring freeze.

Harris promoted to communications director

Former interim head to lead county department

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Former interim Director of Routt County Communications J.P. Harris was selected earlier this month to lead that department permanently.

Harris said Tuesday that he's eager to see two big projects in the communications department come to fruition later this year: the long-awaited transition to 800-MHz radios for emergency responders and the purchase of a mobile communications command vehicle.

All of the county's public safety vehicles had their 800-MHz radio units installed and tested in the fall. With the infrastructure in place, upgrading the dispatchers' computer consoles will be the last step, Harris said.

First responders should be able to talk to emergency dispatchers on the new radio network within three to four months, Harris said.

"The true transition has been in the works for years, but there's a light at the end of the tunnel," Harris said.

Harris joined Routt County Communications as the assistant communications director in April 2007. Although he already is familiar with overseeing the day-to-day operations of Routt County Communications, Harris said his new position brings new responsibilities such as managing the department's budget and maintaining relationships with the Routt County Board of Commissioners and the county's public safety agencies.

Harris has about 12 years of experience in the field, working with various agencies on the Front Range before moving to Routt County. He also previously worked as an emergency medical technician for six years.

Harris replaces former communications director David Hill, who led the department from March 2007 until November 2008. Hill stepped down because he and his wife are relocating to South Dakota because of her job with the U.S. Forest Service, Harris said.

Routt County had a total of 15 applicants for the position, County Manager Tom Sullivan said. He said he conducted several phone interviews, and invited one other candidate to interview in person.

Because of budget constraints and the countywide hiring freeze instituted last week, Harris' former position will not be filled, Sullivan said. The Routt County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the hiring freeze Feb. 10.

Minus his former position, however, Routt County Communications is fully staffed.

"I'm going to be relying on my staff a lot," Harris said.

Another project Routt County Communications will be undertaking this year is an upgrade of its reverse-911 system, Harris said. Newer systems have the capability not only to include landline phones, but also use other technologies for emergency notification such as e-mail, smart phones and pagers, he said.

"In this kind of business, technology changes all the time," Harris said.

- To reach Melinda Dudley, call 871-4203

or e-mail mdudley@steamboatpilot.com

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