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Ex-Westmoreland public safety director back on county payroll

| Friday, June 27, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Former Westmoreland County public safety director Brian Jones was off the county's payroll for less than 14 days.

On Thursday, commissioners approved a recommendation by the new public service director, Roland “Bud” Mertz, to retain Jones, of Allegheny Township, as a temporary technical consultant while the new administration trains the technical staff.

The department oversees 911 dispatching and emergency management in the county, operating on a $51 million annual budget.

Jones, a veteran employee with the department, unexpectedly resigned as director June 5 for personal reasons after two months on the job, which paid $76,000 annually. His resignation was effective June 13.

A day after Jones resigned, the commissioners hired Mertz at an annual salary of about $75,000.

On Thursday, Mertz said that retaining Jones while the new staff “learns the nuts and bolts” of the complex technical system is vital to residents' safety.

“Brian has always been very involved, hands on, in the (technical) side of the department for many years, and understanding and maintaining the technical operation at a high level is vital for the public's safety,” Mertz said. “We can't afford something going wrong as we bring in and train new people. ... It's a huge undertaking.”

Under the new agreement, Jones will be paid $75 per hour for on-site consultation and $60 an hour for telephone consultation. His work will be limited to 40 hours a month.

“I don't anticipate it being long term,” Mertz said.

Jones had worked in the department in the 1990s and served as interim director after the abrupt resignation in November of Michael Brooker, who headed the department for less than two years.

In October 2012, six months after Brooker was appointed to the position, commissioners hired Jones to serve as his top deputy.

Mertz, 55, a former Greensburg fireman, worked for 25 years as a communications officer for the state police. After a five-year stint with the state's Department of Homeland Security, he served in several high-level administrative roles with the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency before retiring last month.

Paul Peirce is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-850-2860 or ppeirce@tribweb.com.

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