The E911 User Board is back in action after an absence of almost nine years.
The panel, made up of emergency agencies that use 911, met monthly at the Jail-Justice Center conference center. Eventually, participation dwindled to the point the board stopped meeting.
The E911 User Board is alive and well. A Tuesday meeting of the panel at the historic Thomas County Courthouse was attended by 17 representatives of local emergency agencies.
A new E911 center is to be constructed in upcoming months.
Thomas County Sheriff Carlton Powell, E911 User Board chairman, said a needs assessment for the building is in order.
The Thomas County Commission office will seek someone to perform a needs assessment study, which will be funded by Thomas County and Thomasville governments, with input on study findings from both entities.
“Hopefully, was can get this done in the next 30 to 45 days,” said Thomas County Commissioner Wiley Grady.
Chris Bowman, Thomasville Fire/Rescue chief, voiced concern about a new facility being large enough to accommodate the operation 30 years from now. Bowman asked if the 911 building would be a “safe haven” during a disaster.
A 6,500-square-foot building is planned.
“We all have our special needs, and those are the things I’d like to see us address,” Powell said.
Said Thomasville police Chief Ellis Jackson, “When they construct the building, they need to contact the users.” The needs assessments should take place “relatively fast,” the chief added.
The assessment will show what equipment is needed, said Ann Powell, E911 director.
Tim Corman, representing Thomas County Emergency Medical Service, said he would like for the 911 system to allow his agency to know the location of each EMS unit. Ann Powell responded that the current system has the capability.
Pavo police Chief Charles Rowe said GPS (Global Positioning System) is important in a 911 system, along with Pavo’s equipment working with E911.
“Certain spots in Boston we can receive, but we can’t put out,” said Boston police Chief Andra Williams. Police must stand in certain locations to be able to communicate, Williams said.
“Our needs are being met. We just want to be able to assist the county,” said Meigs police Chief Gary Price.
The Thomasville fire/rescue chief said that in addition to concerns about the 911 building, the city and county need standard operating procedures for responding to particular incidents with appropriate equipment.
“We need to work together on this to make it happen,” said Thomasville City Council Member Greg Hobbs.
Chris Jones, Thomas County Fire/Rescue chief, said what is decided about the new E911 center and equipment is important to ISO (Insurance Services Office), the agency that “drives” fire insurance premiums.
Said Troy Rich, Thomasville assistant police chief, “We definitely need to integrate the system.”
City police are after criminals and want to know where they are, Rich said, adding that police do not stop at city limits signs in pursuit of suspects.
“We need to provide the best service to our community in the most efficient manner,” said Rich, who will become police chief on July 1.
Capt. Ron James, of Thomas County Sheriff’s Office, said GPS is crucial, and it is important for law enforcement agencies to be able to share information.
Current E911 housing — in the 100 block of South Crawford Street — was to have been 5,000 square feet. The proposed space was cut in half.
“Taxpayers should be angry about a 911 building that was quickly outgrown,” the sheriff said. “Now what’s it good for? I’m not sure what.”
Bowman said communication centers usually are as good as what is inside of them, not how they look.
County commissioner Elaine Mays said a new E911 center should be three times larger than the current structure
A Taj Mahal is not needed, but a new building should properly accommodate personnel and equipment, Mays said.
Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1820.