By Gerhard Schneibel

gerhard@reporternewspapers.net

Construction on the shared Sandy Springs-Johns Creek 911 center is set to begin this month, which means the hiring of the center’s staff of 53 isn’t far away.

The two cities’ Chattahoochee River 911 Authority met Feb. 25 at Sandy Springs City Hall and discussed hiring procedures.

Sandy Springs Assistant City Manager Noah Reiter said the position descriptions are “nearing the final stages.”

The people hired will be employees of Cranbury, N.J.-based iXP Corp., which last year was awarded a $33 million contract to design, build and operate the 911 center for five years. Benefits packages have to be finalized before the positions are advertised, but about 10 people have submitted résumés.

A complication arose because the planned polygraph tests of iXP’s new employees may be against Department of Labor regulations. Government entities may require polygraph testing as a condition of employment, but private companies may not.

Sandy Springs Police Chief Terry Sult said the “immediate concerns are operational and tactical safety issues.”

“The better screening you have, the better off you are. And if we can’t polygraph, maybe we’ll beef up the front end and do some home visits and talk to some neighbors,” he said.

The Sandy Springs Police Department agreed to conduct background checks of potential employees, while time spent on “feet on the ground” investigations will be split between the cities’ police forces, Sult said.

“The initial part is ‘Can we trust our dispatchers?’ ” Sult said. But he said all public safety employees should be covered by the same screening processes so sensitive information can be shared at will.

Construction of the center at Barfield Road and Mount Vernon Highway is expected to begin in mid-March, and the cut-over from Fulton County’s 911 service to the center is planned for around Aug. 1.

Smyrna-based Humphries and Co. General Contractors won the construction contract but has yet to complete a cost estimate.

The center will be in a commercial office building with a five-year certificate of occupancy. After that, the lease will be renewed, or the center will be moved. The building does not meet the federal requirement that public safety buildings be earthquake-resistant, but neither does the police station on the corner of Barfield Road and Hammond Drive.

The lease for the police station expires in 2011, and City Council members last year discussed buying the Fulton County North Annex on Roswell Road, which does meet the requirement for earthquake resistance.

“Our Community Development Department and our Fire Marshal’s Office feel comfortable about issuing a temporary certificate of occupancy,” Reiter said.

The 911 authority also discussed whether to hire an executive director to manage iXP. For now, Reiter and Grant Hickey of Johns Creek will split the responsibilities of that role.