LAURINBURG — City and county officials have some work to do if the new 911 call center and emergency operations center under construction on West Boulevard is to be up and running by the first of 2015, the site’s project manager told a gathering of those officials and city and county staff Tuesday.
Sherri Bush, of L.R. Kimball and associates, a firm that specializes in overseeing construction of communication centers and which had a hand in the design of Scotland County’s new $4 million location, told those gathered at a called meeting in the Small Business Innovation Center that getting the location fully staffed and operational a month after construction is expected to be complete would be “doable” if an intergovernmental agreement could be approved within 90 days.
That agreement is mandated by a $2.1 million grant from the state 911 board, which along with $650,000 from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and $850,000 from the 911 fund balance is paying for the center’s construction. The agreement would serve as a guide to how the county’s governmental bodies would divide operational expenses, as well as establish rules for daily management including the hiring and training of staff.
Kevin Patterson, county manager, recommended the creation of an advisory board consisting of Laurinburg Fire Chief Randy Gibson, Police Chief Darwin Williams and City Manager Charles Nichols, County Manager Kevin Patterson and EMS Director Roylin Hammond. Any action discussed by the board would need approval by the City Council or County Commissioners.
Councilman Curtis Leak argued that there should be an elected official on the board, saying that the names of those officials were on the grant application which made the building possible. Patterson responded that having the city and county managers on the boards, who answer to the City Council and the County Commissioners, respectively, should ensure that everyone’s best interests are represented.
Bush said that the issue of who will serve on that board would be something officials would need to hammer out.
“States are looking to how they are going to fund the future of 911,” Bush said, adding that such centers have not kept up with the pace of technology and legislatures feel that consolidating and centralizing locations will make updates easier.
A slideshow narrated by Hammond illustrated the current situation of the county’s call response areas, showing equipment shoved into close spaces, wires hanging haphazardly in corners and cramped workspaces dotted with obsolete electronics. Bush especially lamented that the sheriff’s department lacks the technology to track the address where a phone call originated, saying they were operating as they would have “in the 1970s.”
“When you dial 911, you better be able to tell them where you’re at because they can’t tell,” she said. “That’s ridiculous in this day and age because the technology exists and I can dial 911 from my cell phone and they should be able to say (where I am),” she said.
The building will consist of a general purpose area that would serve for training or to accommodate emergency responders in the event of a natural disaster, a call center which will be staffed 24-7, along with a breakroom/classroom, a few offices and a bathroom equipped with showers in case of the need for long-term staffing. The building is equipped to withstand hurricane-force winds and earthquakes — in the words of Hammond, it should be “the last building standing in the county.”
By providing Scotland County EMS with the ability to expand when needed, the center will also serve to absorb Richmond County’s 911 system in the event that their center is debilitated or destroyed. In turn, Richmond County will act as backup for Scotland’s emergency response system should the 911 center fail.