Groundbreaking ceremony makes official coming of new 911 center

It’s official! Emanuel County is getting a new emergency operations center! Emanuel County commissioners Jim Sherrod, Hugh Foskey, and James Canady, along with longtime EMA director Martha Culbreth and Jamie Clark from the Department of Corrections, broke ground at the build site behind the old fire department last Thursday in front of a crowd of community leaders and members of the public.

County Administrator Guy Singletary opened the ceremony, welcoming and thanking everyone in attendance.

Sherrod, who chairs the board of commission, then stood before the crowd and gave a brief history of the county’s current 911 center.

Prior to the early 1990s, Emanuel County did not have a central place for emergency operations. The Jaycees, in 1992, voluntarily organized an effort to provide a place. The civic group petitioned the county commission to place a referendum on the next general election to determine by vote whether or not citizens wanted a $1.50 fee added to phone lines to fund a 911 center. That fee, if approved, would continue to exist in the future to offset the costs of the center.

The referendum passed by 98 percent in the November 1993 election, and planning began almost immediately. The new center would live in the basement of the Coleman Hotel. Renovations and construction began in early 1994, utilizing jail labor. Eight new dispatchers, along with one administrative person, were hired to fill the necessary positions.

The center launched in beta mode in October 1994 and became fully operational in live mode early the next year.

“For the last 28 years, the basement of the Coleman Hotel, the center of Emanuel County 911/EMA, has served its purpose well, but now it’s time to bring the emergency operations center into the 21st century,” Sherrod said. “We’re here today to break ground on the new center.”

Over the next few months, the County of Emanuel will work with the Department of Corrections’ Construction Services, under the direction of Clark, to build the new facility, which will, in turn, allow the county to be in a much better position to provide services to its citizenry. The new emergency operations center will house 911 as well as three full-time dispatchers at all times. The local EMA, to be located there as well, will continue to work with GEMA and FEMA, and the facility itself will be large enough and equipped with upgraded systems to accommodate large-scale groups for collaborations as needed.

Culbreth gave a short speech of her own, calling the organized effort to build a new facility of this nature “pleasing to her heart.”

“I’ve been working here for 25 years. Thank you all for your participation in this event and your interest in this project, especially Guy Singletary, who has had a plan to lead this into reality.”

She continued, saying the new facility will enable her and her staff to continue to provide these vital services to the community as well as the men and women in uniform across different departments. Culbreth closed her remarks by mentioning how refreshing it is to find a moment of celebration, thanks to the groundbreaking, in these times of uncertain circumstances and conditions.

Clark, in his address, told the crowd, “It’s good to be here. We work throughout the state, providing services for rural communities. It’s a great way for us to give back and save municipalities revenue at the same time. We’re looking forward to working here; we’re ready to get started. As soon as the paperwork is finished, you’ll see us moving in. We’re hoping for great weather, and I’m anticipating everything to go well.”

Pastor Nick Roberson stood before the crowd and led a prayer for the project, then the group of five shoveled out the first bit of ground on which the new center will stand.

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