The fate of a new Columbia County customer service center may be decided at an Emergency Services budget meeting today.
Emergency Services Director Pam Tucker and County Administrator Steve Szablewski will push for a $40,000 budget item to use as seed money to open the new call center.
The proposed center will take all nonemergency calls and complaints from residents, and work as an information and coordinating center to service those complaints.
"We have a 911 center that receives emergency - police, fire and ambulance - but there's a lot of calls that come in about a pothole or a leaking water line, animal control, stormwater, questions about road closings due to construction, all of these kinds of questions are not critical emergencies, but are important information that go to a variety of departments," Szablewiski said.
"We're trying to focus it to get one call number where people can get information and that call center will refer information requests by computer to the various departments for follow up and then we would track various calls to make sure they're responded to," he said.
Tucker also sees the center as a means of servicing the public while relieving 911 and other departments of the extraneous calls they receive daily.
"If approved, citizens will find a very streamlined and very efficient problem-solving and information-sharing center while leaving key people to do the jobs they were hired to do," Tucker said.
The $40,000 for the call center, which would be taken from the county's general fund, will pay for the salary of one person, software and a trip to an April conference in Charlotte, N.C., about county information centers.
Szablewski said the $40,000 will cover about one-third of the cost to make the center fully operational.
He said the county later will phase in three more operators and more equipment. The call center will be in the EMA office of the Columbia CountyGovernment Complex.
"I say there's a definite need and it would be a better service to our citizens, and the cost is not so bad that we can't work it in. We'll get into it and then we'll improve it as we go along," Szablewski said.
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