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Sheriff, Cottageville Mayor at odds over 911-needs

Leaders with the town of Cottageville are preparing to speak to Colleton County Council over a request for them to pay into the county’s incoming new 911-central dispatch center.
Cottageville Mayor Tim Grimsley received a certified letter earlier this month from Colleton County Sheriff R.A. Strickland.
In that letter, Strickland said that the town needs to contribute to the incoming new countywide 911-emergency central dispatch system. This contribution includes Cottageville giving the Sheriff’s Office about $90,000, an amount that will cover the cost of two dispatcher positions, including their insurance and fringe benefits.
The letter also stated this funding request can be paid to the Sheriff’s Office through two payments.
According to Colleton County Sheriff’s Office Spokeswoman Shalane Lowes, the Cottageville Police Department is sharing the “same radio station with the Sheriff’s Office,” meaning one dispatcher is working all 911-emergency calls for the entire county and the Cottageville Police Department.
“This is an excessive amount of calls for one dispatcher to manage,” said Lowes. “The county has grown considerably in the last seven years, and we are growing as a community. With that, comes a huge increase in calls for service across the board.
“The funding from this contract will allow us to be of better service to our community and more efficient as first responders.”
Sheriff Strickland said he sent the town’s leaders a similar letter in February. In that letter, he asked for a 30-day response. Cottageville did not respond to that letter, he said.
According to Strickland, the initial letter allowed for 30 days for Grimsley to reply. Strickland says it has been well over 90 days and still hasn’t received a reply from Grimsley. “We have obligations as elected officials to do what’s best for the citizens by working together. All it would’ve taken is a phone call in regards to this request, I’m open to suggestions, we could have come to an agreement,” said Strickland.
“During this time Strickland demonstrated every means necessary to contact Grimsley to discuss this matter more in depth,” said Lowes.
Grimsley denies having heard from Strickland.
In the second letter that Strickland sent to the town, the letter states that Cottageville’s officers will be cut off from all 911-dispatch “air time” if the amount is not paid.
The letter states that Cottageville must assume all responsibilities for its dispatching its own police agency. “We will be removing ourselves as a responsible party for any and all NCIC files that are generated for the Cottageville Police Department,” the letter states.
The letter also states that dispatchers will still send Colleton County Fire-Rescue to the Cottageville area, should that service be needed. However, any law enforcement needs to be received from a Cottageville resident in a 911-emergency call will be transferred to the Cottageville agency by calling the town’s police department.
No dispatch radio time will be used.
Strickland says other municipalities in Colleton County contribute to the countywide 911-system: Walterboro and Edisto Beach have a binding agreement with the Sheriff’s Office.
Edisto Beach Administrator Iris Hill confirmed that the town does have a contract with the Sheriff’s Office for the use of the 911-system, which is mostly paid for through the Sheriff’s Office annual budget.
Cottageville does not have a contract with the Sheriff’s Office.
However, Cottageville Mayor Tim Grimsley says the town should not have to pay the amount being requested for services. Grimsley says the town’s residents pay county taxes, which contributes to the cost of the center. He also said that a request for that large amount of money is unacceptable.
“We have not negotiated anything,” Grimsley said, of the town and the Sheriff’s Office. The Town of Cottageville is preparing to operate off of a $600,000 budget for the upcoming fiscal year, according to information provided by Grimsley.
“We have a budget in place already. You can’t just say, ‘You’re going to give me this.’ We are talking about almost $100,000 and people’s lives,” he said. “The majority of the Cottageville Police Officers are running traffic, issuing traffic citations which in return is generating additional funding that could be used to help cover the cost of their designated radio stations,” said Strickland.
Strickland said his request for Cottageville to contribute to the countywide 911-center is a “business decision” based on the safety of Cottageville residents.
“More people are deciding to live in this area due to the growth in adjacent counties, we’re experiencing an escalation in population which increases the amount of emergency calls deputies are dispatched to. Due to the growth of the county and the expansion in the amount of officers at the Cottageville Police Department they are in dire need of their own radio stations to ensure the safety of the officers and the citizens. This request for funding is with everyone’s best interest at heart,” said Strickland.

Cottageville is growing
According to Strickland, the Sheriff’s Office covers the greater Cottageville area throughout the year. The Cottageville Police Department runs traffic and answers all calls for service within their 1.5-mile jurisdiction until midnight. At that point, the Sheriff’s Office assumes responsibility for all calls from midnight until six o’clock in the morning, according to Shalane Lowes, spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Office.
Strickland also says that, as the number of Cottageville Police Officers grows, those officers are using more air time during the day for traffic calls.
“They now have as many as four officers during the day stopping cars and using radio time, taking that air time from other emergencies happening in a growing county,” said Strickland. “I am only asking that they help pay for the service they are using.”
“This is not a money game. Since we have consolidated our central and countywide dispatch center, we are working more calls, and we need more support from them.”
Strickland says he is doing what is best for the citizens of Colleton County.
“I have a special love for all Colleton County citizens,” said Strickland. “This is a business decision to provide selfless service to all people, including residents of Cottageville. We are growing as a community and moving Colleton County to a new level and want to ensure all citizens of Colleton County are safer than ever.”
Grimsley says Sheriff Strickland has not reached out to him before sending him letters on the issue.
Strickland denies this, saying he has asked the mayor to meet with him on multiple occasions to discuss Cottageville’s growing police department and the need for them to contribute financially to the 911-emergency system.
“I have asked the mayor to come to see me, and I will show him an increase in the number of counties calls to the Cottageville area, and the increase in CPD calls that the 911-center controls,” said Strickland.
Commonly called the CAD system, the county’s new central dispatch 911-emergency center comes at a price tag of more than $800,000. It will replace the current system, which is more than 20 plus years old. The new system will also be housed in the recently-built Colleton County Law Enforcement Complex, which houses the Sheriff’s Office personnel, along with other law enforcement agencies that service Colleton County. The new CAD system should be implemented by August.
“The CAD system controls everything in central dispatch,” said Strickland.

What this means for residents
According to Strickland, none of this will affect the residents in the town of Cottageville. “The Colleton County Sheriff’s Office will continue to provide the same due diligent service to the residents in our great and growing county. Our communities’ safety is our number one priority,” said Strickland.
Grimsley is set to meet with Colleton County Council at their June 4th meeting to discuss this issue.

Heather Walters (1489 Posts)