Capt. Mike Fitzhugh discusses the new dispatch equipment Feb. 29, 2011, with county commissioners during an open house at the Rutherford County Sheriffâ€™s Office in Murfreesboro, Tenn. (TMP Photo/M. Kemph)
Residents will have the opportunity to tour the 11-story jail facility and administrative offices at the Rutherford County Adult Detention Center on Saturday from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m.
Sheriff Robert Arnold will be on hand to discuss the upcoming budget, which will be submitted to the Rutherford County Commission soon.
The Sheriff’s Office will also be collecting unwanted items.
“Residents may turn in expired or unused prescription medicines and unwanted firearms for disposal,” said Lisa Marchesoni, public information officer for the Sheriff’s Office.
However, Marchesoni said ammunition would not be accepted.
As part of the tour, residents will be able to view the newly remodeled communication center that houses emergency dispatch personnel.
Last week, the Sheriff’s Office unveiled the renovated center, which now has up-to-date emergency dispatch equipment, to members of the County Commission – six weeks sooner than originally planned.
“I am very proud that we finished the project much earlier than everyone had anticipated,” Arnold said, during a Feb. 29 interview at the Sheriff’s Office. “We allotted 12 weeks for the project but finished in half that time.”
The new equipment replaces the consoles that were installed more than 25 years ago, which resulted in Sheriff’s Office administrators being forced to find replacement parts through eBay Inc.
Having to search the Internet for communication technology that dated back to the 1980s was becoming extremely difficult, only exacerbating a frustrating situation, Arnold said.
“The upgrades were needed for so long,” he said, adding he is “ecstatic that the project is completed.”
In November 2011, the County Commission unanimously approved to fund more than $1.9 million in jail improvement and equipment upgrade requests, following months of politically wrangling.
Commissioners agreed to pull nearly $1.2 million from the county’s litigation tax and more than $782,000 from the development tax to fund the projects.
Part of that funding included $510,000 to pay for the center’s renovation, of which $215,000 was reimbursed by the Emergency Communications Board of Directors.
According to documents provided by the Sheriff’s Office, the final cost of upgrading the emergency dispatch equipment and remodeling the communication center totaled less than $410,000.
Arnold said Capt. Mike Fitzhugh and Chief Deputy Randy Garrett, both of whom helped oversee the renovation and equipment upgrades, deserve much of the credit for the early completion date and budgetary successes.
“Logistically, we were prepared,” Arnold said, “but without their leadership, the project would not have been orchestrated as well.”
Despite the initial hesitation some commissioners expressed about paying for equipment upgrades last year, dispatcher Jenny Mathias said she is glad the project was eventually approved because it has made her job much easier.
“There may be some in the community who feel this was cosmetic,” Mathias said. “But that could not be further from the truth. This was a safety issue that needed to be addressed.”
Mathias said the new equipment allows her to work faster and hear law enforcement officials more clearly, which is especially important when dealing with emergency situations.
“Our ears are the lifeline – the lifeline for deputies, first responders and residents,” she said. “We have to be able to hear to do our job, and the new equipment ensures we have the necessary tools to do just that – keep people safe.”