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911, CID move to new home

Unicoi County’s 911 employees have moved out of a facility where “there was not enough room to breathe” to a new home.
During an open house on Oct. 21 celebrating completion of the new facility on Jackson-Love Highway, Patsy Ledford, 911 director, said the old facility, which was located below the Unicoi County Jail, was cramped and employees were forced to work “piled on top of each other.”
In addition to more space, the new facility, which is connected to the jail annex and sheriff’s department offices, also comes with new technology and equipment. This new technology, according to 911 employee Daniel White, gives dispatch better communication with agencies surrounding the county, which is vital in mutual aid situations.
The new technology also allows dispatchers to find out the history of an individual faster than before. Ledford described the new technology as “fantastic.”
Employees spent several weeks training on the new system, Ledford also said. The new dispatch center went live at 10 a.m. on Oct. 22.
Stacy Wigand, with MedicOne Ambulance Service, said the company is happy to see the new 911 center up and running.
“The new system will help lower response times to medical emergencies,” he added. “This is long overdue. We are glad it is here.”
Erwin Police Chief Regan Tilson said he believed the new dispatch center “will be an asset to this community for years to come.”
The dispatchers weren’t the only county employees celebrating the opening of a new facility on Oct. 21. Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department officers were also on hand to show off their new offices, which will soon be home to the department’s criminal investigation division.
Lt. Jimmy Erwin said the new space includes an evidence storage area that is much larger and more secure than the one the department was using. Craig Masters, administrative assistant with the UCSD said the evidence room is ventilated to help protect officers from being exposed to illegal drugs seized by the department. Also, a log will be kept of anyone who enters the evidence storage room.
The new facility has three secure interview rooms, which come equipped with recording equipment.
“There’s not a whole lot of privacy for interviews at the old office,” Erwin said. “There are times when we need to keep people separate during interviews.”
Chief Deputy Frank Rogers said he was pleased with the new facility.
“This is a step in the right direction,” Rogers said. “As times evolve, we have to evolve with them.”
The new offices of both the criminal investigation division and 911 dispatch are lacking something the old offices had – flooding caused by inmates stopping up toilets in the jail directly above
“Because of the flooding, we basically had to move,” Masters said.
He also said the new facility will be an asset to the department.