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In the spring of 2000, Chief Justice Toal was sworn in as the new Chief Justice for the state of South Carolina. At that time, the bubble was bursting, the economy was beginning a significant decline, and the expectations of service by the public and citizens of our state and local governments were increasing. Technology was on the verge of finally meeting the promises of reliability, ease of use, and functionality that was advertised in the marketing brochures throughout the 1990s. The low country was beginning to position itself for exponential population growth with the hopes of a shipping port and relocation of retiring baby-boomers.

The South Carolina Judicial Department (SCJD) began a modernization of the courts effort through partnerships with counties. Technology and collaboration were going to be the only way to improve the services and operations of the courts in times of decreasing government budgets. The primary focuses of the efforts were twofold: the establishment of a reliable, high-speed, network with internet connectivity in each county and implementation of a statewide court case management system (CMS) in the Circuit and Magistrate Courts.

County Officials Accept AwardAfter SCJD completed the implementation of the CMS in the pilot counties, the counties of Beaufort, Jasper, and Hampton stepped forward to work with SCJD in a manner never before seen in South Carolina. Three counties and a state agency would spend months working together to implement technology, establish an infrastructure, and develop skills and resources that will forever change the way of providing government services in these three very diverse and different counties.

Beaufort County is a very progressive, affluent community that is a national leader in many ways. Jasper County is a very rural, but fast growing community that has expectations of not being rural for very much longer. Hampton County is also a very rural community that is establishing a vision for prosperity through leadership and results.

Three unique counties with very different histories and situations, one branch of state government with a local focus, and one common goal of improving the local courts while positioning the local communities for a better future set the stage for the unparalleled efforts and results that were achieved in Beaufort, Jasper, and Hampton Counties in FY2006-2007.

In addition to all of their cooperative work in implementing CMS, the counties had a major need to improve communication technology in the emergency management area. When a major hurricane threatens the low country of South Carolina a massive evacuation of population will occur. Beaufort County, consisting of many low lying areas, requires a complete evacuation of the county including the local government establishment. As this evacuation travels through both Jasper and Hampton Counties it becomes apparent that these counties need to have a close and strong working relationship for Emergency Management.

Frank Guth - Beaufort IT DirectorUnder a Category 2 storm Beaufort County has no shelter space for its population and relies upon Jasper and primarily Hampton to supply those shelters. Under a Category 4 storm it becomes necessary to move the entire local government operations out of the county into these counties and others. To accommodate these plans all three counties have joined together to interlink all three county Emergency Operations Centers with fiber connections. This has allowed the ability to directly link EOC computer operations with the EOC and establish a regional computer command and control system. It has allowed the installation of direct telephone "Hot Lines" between each EOC. These lines require no dialing and link the command and control as well as Emergency Welfare Operations commanders.

In further agreements Beaufort County provides access to the counties Traffic Management Center and provides coverage of certain portions of Jasper County with the traffic camera programs. The Jasper County Central Dispatch Center and EOC have the ability to monitor the camera system for support during daily emergency operations. Each county 911 system has been interconnected and allows the transferring of 911 circuits to each county's dispatch center.

To further improve the command and control aspects Beaufort County has entered an agreement with Hampton County to expand its Emergency Operations Center to allow Beaufort County to share it during times when Beaufort County has to evacuate. This facility will be used by Hampton on a daily basis to support its operations. Under this agreement Hampton has provided the land and access to its current EOC and Beaufort County is funding the building.

Development of county and regional telecommunications networks completed as part of the implementation of the statewide court case management system has established a complete technology infrastructure in the low country that is now a foundation for the future of these counties. This effort eliminates jurisdictional boundaries created by county and municipal lines which are usually meaningless, unnecessary hindrances and obstacles to victims of crime, criminal justice personnel, victims of natural disasters, and emergency preparedness.

Special Acknowledgements:

Gary Kubic - Beaufort County Administrator
Elizabeth Smith - Beaufort County Clerk of Court
Rita Simmons - Beaufort County Chief Magistrate
Frank Guth - Beaufort County MIS Director
Beaufort County Council

Sabrena Graham - Hampton County Administrator
Mylinda Nettles - Hampton County Clerk of Court
Grace Bennett - Hampton County Chief Magistrate
Kevin Pack - Hampton County IT Manager
Hampton County Council

Andrew Fulghum - Jasper County Administrator
Margaret Bostick - Jasper County Clerk of Court
Joyce McDonald - Jasper County Chief Magistrate
Stephen Malphrus - Jasper County IT Manager
Yasemin Akar - Jasper County CMS Tier II Support Specialist
Jasper County Council