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City of Columbia could pay hundreds a day to staff Wabash warming center


The city of Columbia opened up the emergency overnight warming center at the Wabash Bus Station Wednesday ahead of expected winter weather.

Wednesday was also the first day the city adjusted the hours the warming center will open. The station will open Monday to Saturday from noon until 5 p.m. and when temperatures get below 25 degrees, the shelter will open from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m.

In anticipation of more people using the warming centers due to the temperature threshold changing, Columbia City Manager De'Carlon Seewood said the city decided to hire a private security firm to assist with staffing the station.

"Whenever it's staffed you have to take an officer off the street and put them there. So, instead of an officer out patrolling or doing investigation work, they are at the Wabash facility. So this was better suited for us," Seewood said.

Through a records request, ABC 17 News discovered what Citadel is charging the city of Columbia to staff Wabash. The hourly rate starts at $30.75 for an unarmed security officer and $34.75 for an armed security officer.

On days when Wabash is open from noon to 5 p.m., the city could be charged anywhere from $153.75 to $173.75. On days it's open overnight, it could cost anywhere from $338.25 to $382.25.

Next winter, Seewood said he hopes to not outsource for additional security officers and is working on plans to find a different location other than Wabash.

"When we talk about Wabash, we have to realize that it is not a shelter, it's a warming center. It's a place where, if it's cold, there is heat," Seewood said. "We've already started having conversations trying to find a new tentative location. I'm hoping we have a proposal by the summertime."

When looking at a future permanent shelter, Seewood said it needs to be on a bus route, close to services but not too deep into residential areas.

Major Curtiss Hartley with Salvation Army agrees there needs to be more overnight shelters in Columbia but not all the responsibility should rely on the city to find it.

"In the short run the emergency situation it's great that the city is able to offer this," Hartley said. "We just need more resources to be able to do a better job and provide more and more of those kinds of things so the city doesn't have to or doesn't need to and they can go on serving the many other needs the community has."

Article Topic Follows: Columbia

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Deborah Kendrick

Deborah is a weekday evening anchor and investigative reporter for ABC 17 News.


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