By David Meade
Officials with The Town of Williamston and the Williamston Police Department have requested to have the jail and dispatch operations turned over to the Anderson County 911 system.
According to Williamston Police Chief Tony Taylor and Mayor Mack Durham, the move will save the town money while providing a higher level of service to residents of the town.
Benefits include improved communication with other agencies and in the handling of 911 calls. The move will also save the town money.
The move will eliminate four jailer/dispatch positions in the department, Taylor said. “We have spent a lot of time looking at how it would work.”
The police department currently operates on its own dispatch channel. When someone calls 911, the call is routed to Central Dispatch in Anderson and forwarded back to Williamston. Being on the County’s Central Dispatch system will allows coordinated communication with other agencies.
The decision to move to Central Dispatch came after the new police administration analyzed their budget for a potential cut in expenditures at the request of Mayor Durham.
Captain Kevin Marsee headed the study. According to his report, a detailed review of the budget showed that the police department comprises forty-five percent of the town’s budget and and a fifteen percent reduction in the police budget would require a cut in salaries.
According to the report, a fifteen percent cut would amount to $147,541.
The town operates a 24×7 detention facility and communications center with current salaries of $170,547. That amount does not include replacement of staff during absences, sick leave, vacation or holidays and it does not include overtime required to maintain the staff at the detention center.
It was determined that the most logical course of action for the town and police department would be to relocate the jail and dispatch services to the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office and the 911 system.
The report listed 13 benefits that will improve public safety for the town including:
Currently when someone calls 911 the call is routed to Central Dispatch in Anderson and forwarded back to the Williamston Police Department. Citizens also call the department directly at 847-7425. The report points out that “When seconds count in an emergency, this process can prove to be time consuming by routing the call to a second number.” It also states, “All children from kindergarten to high school are trained to dial 911 in the event of an emergency.”
According to the report, benefits of switching to the County Central Dispatch include:
Larger, well balanced and specialized staff to take calls.
The Sheriff’s Office is CALEA (nationally) approved agency and follow their policies and procedures.
They have State of the Art Equipment which can provide detailed reports and call histories as needed for analysis and investigations. The system also has ID systems.
It is fully implemented Phase ll wireless (cellular) – 911 Emergency calls from cell phones can be traced to the location the call originates.
Mobile Data Services – The county uses the latest text messaging services as well as compatibility with computer service when emailing data and photos.
The county provides required maintenance of the 800 mhz system.
Central Dispatch provides translation services when needed or when a 911 caller speaks a language other than English.
Central Dispatch collects fees and tariffs provided by communications providers and wireless phone companies.
The move would also keep the Williamston Fire Department, Fire Departments, EMS services and other law enforcement agencies coordinated in one PSAP which eliminates transferring 911 calls.
One of the main factors in considering the move is that it brings “interoperability” to first responders in coordinating with other agencies. The report makes several suggestions as to how the Williamston Police Department could work around the problem of interoperability, however it recommends the most realistic solution is to be on the 800 mhz radio system with the county.
If the request is approved by Anderson County Council and the Sheriff’s Department, Williamston officers will be trained in booking procedures for the Anderson County Detention Center, which will house all detainees.
The Police Department will share the small towns channel with Belton, Honea Path and West Pelzer until July at which point West Pelzer and Williamston will be provided a joint channel.
The report states, “These initiatives would not only assist the Town of Williamston in meeting their financial objectives but would also provide a higher level of service to the residents of the town.”
Also, according to the mayor, citizens are already paying the 911 communications fee.