West Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- The landscape of 9-1-1 dispatch centers in Lexington County could be looking a lot different by next year.
Officials in three Lexington County cities and towns must now decide whether or not to fold their local dispatch centers into one run by the county. But some say that could mean slower response times on emergency calls.
"We need to find out which is more efficient," said West Columbia Police Chief Dennis Tyndall. West Columbia is one of the three cities and towns – along with Batesburg-Leesville and Cayce -- that must now decide how they will adjust.
The 9-1-1 plan in the county has been run the same way since 1994, according to Lexington County Administrator Joe Mergo.
It has officials in those three cities and towns some local officials looking at what adjustments they'll be making when it does.
"I think there would be some software upgrades, and I don't know what the cost of that will be, so we will listen to what the county has to tell us," Tyndall said.
The West Columbia and Batesburg-Leesville fire departments rely on county dispatch for fire services, after City Council members in West Columbia voted Monday evening to fold their fire dispatch into the counties.
West Columbia officials said they plan to meet with Mergo next week to determine if running their own dispatch center for the police department is feasible for the city.
Dispatchers in Cayce run the center for their police and fire services. In Batesburg-Leesville, the dispatch center is run for the police department.
Emergency Services are handled automatically by the county in the state of South Carolina.
"This update to the plan will allow the three municipalities who operate 9-1-1 centers to have 100 complete oversight of their 9-1-1 facilities," Mergo said.
Workers in the county's 9-1-1 dispatch center must now focus resources after opening the $13 million facility, Mergo said.
"We're just no longer able to oversee all the administrative oversight that is required to oversee the other three 9-1-1 centers," said Mergo.
Council members in Irmo asked town Police Chief Brian Buck to look into opening their own dispatch center earlier this month. Buck will work with Town Administrator Robert Brown on a plan.
Buck said localized centers could have advantages because many times employees in localized centers know local landscapes better.
"We are still are evaluating exactly what works involved in even doing the job of opening a 9-1-1 center," Buck said. "Obviously they can't know every landmark in every city and every part of the county."
Buck said they are still a way out from determining if running their own dispatch center is something they can handle financially.
Officials with Batesburg-Leesville, Cayce and West Columbia are expected to meet with Mergo next week.
They will be discussing what costs would be in running their own dispatch centers.
Those city and town officials said figuring out the cost will help them determine if they're able to afford running their own dispatch centers.
The current plan will end July 1, 2015.