911 Center raises tension in South Georgia - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

911 Center raises tension in South Georgia

August 16, 2006

Clinch County - After nearly 10 years of planning, the tri-county Emergency 911 center opened last January in Clinch County.  "The Center, as far as equipment, has some of the best in the state of Georgia. It's the newest, the most modern, the most efficient," says Mark Steedley, the Authority Chairman at the 911 Center.

The center was given complete control of Emergency Management, Fire and Rescue, and Law Enforcement Dispatch in Atkinson, Clinch and Lanier. 

But the Lanier County Sheriff's office chose to keep command of their local dispatch unit.  A move they say is better for the residents because they are familiar with the area and can provide a better response time.  "Local individuals running the center and working with the center are familiar with those roads and other landmarks and can provide a more precise description on where to go," said Terry Norris, Executive Vice President of the Georgia Sheriff's Association.

Steedley also says the county is not honoring an agreement made 8 years ago to give 9 thousand dollars a month toward upkeep of the center.  "Over a 5 year period it will be an investment of a couple of hundred thousand dollars to go through and replace the computer technology."

Neither the Sheriff nor the County Chairman signed off on this agreement. Both were elected after the fact.

According to Steedley, this could cost county tax payers.  "So actually the tax payers are going to end up having to pay their portion of the 911 center for Lanier County plus the commissioner will also have to fund the Sheriff's department as well."

Steedley says they would consider the possibility of taking the county to court, but this would be an absolute last resort.

The Georgia Sheriff's Association say Sheriff Offices throughout the state usually run their own dispatch centers to better serve local residents.

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