Richland Co. sheriff moves to split with city on 911 center

Richland Co. sheriff moves to split with city on 911 center

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott is threatening to split with the City of Columbia on joint operation of the center handling 911 calls.

In a letter to county council members, Lott says his goals for better emergency dispatching service and a safer, more efficient system have not been met. The sheriff says his office has taken part in a series of meetings about 911 issues "with little to no progress."

The city's website says the 911 Communications Center became a merged operation in July 1999. It is located at the main Columbia Fire Department headquarters on Laurel Street and has, according to the city, 96 employees.

Lott's letter cites what he calls "the inability of the communications center to properly and effectively meet our needs and that of the citizens."

"I am being held responsible for a service I have no control or authority over," Lott writes.

The sheriff says on Sept. 29, he learned an automatic vehicle locator for his department's vehicles was never switched on in the center. Lott says the county paid $625,000 for the system and announced it "with a great deal of fanfare" in 2011.

"I am incensed over this neglect," Lott says.

Lott says Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook agrees with him that the main users of the system, the police and sheriff's department, need to be in control. The sheriff says Holbrook has advised City Manager Teresa Wilson.

A city spokeswoman says, however, the city manager has not been formally notified of the sheriff's call to end joint operations. The spokeswoman says the City of Columbia considers the matter "open for discussion."

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