New backup dispatch building ensures public safety

The building is expected to be finished in three to six months.

The City Council of Columbia recently approved an ordinance between the city and the county for the installation and maintenance of a new 911 dispatch center.

In an emergency, personnel currently use an old trailer as a backup 911 dispatch location, said Zim Schwartze, director of public safety and joint communications.

“The mobile trailer we had for years was unacceptable, as it is literally falling apart,” Schwartze said. “It took hours to get started up and functioning properly. It really worried me that we didn’t have a decent backup dispatch site.”

A recent nearby gas leak resulted in the evacuation of the entire dispatch building. With the only backup for the emergency calls to be fielded being an outdated trailer, Zim Schwartze proposed a different solution.

“I started talking to some people and asked Boone County Sheriff Dwayne Carey if he would consider a permanent backup dispatch center on Boone County property,” she said. “The sheriff liked the idea and talked it over with the Boone County commissioners.”

Communication and progress between the city and the county has developed smoothly, Boone County Capt. Chad Martin said.

“We’ve been behind the project since they first brought this to our attention,” he said.

According to the ordinance, the backup dispatch center will be named the Wood Building and will include a backup generator in case of emergency power outages as well an upgraded telephone system.

As stated in the ordinance, the building will be able to receive and process 911 calls, maintain radio communication with public safety agencies and offer additional call-taking positions for handling extreme call volume during a major event that does not require evacuation.

Schwartze said she expects the building to be fully constructed in the next three to six months, but the timeline depends on many variables, including the cooperation of weather and contractors.

Funds to construct the building will be taken out of the current city budget, she said.

“We are pushing here as hard as we can to get this project completed,” Schwartze said. “We feel this is very important to the citizens of Columbia and Boone County.”

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