CONWAY, S.C. (WBTW) — Horry County held a grand opening and dedication ceremony Wednesday for the new Randall S. Webster Emergency Operations and Communications Center.

The 43,000 square foot facility is located in the same complex as the J. Reuben Long Detention Center in Conway. The county’s emergency management division and 911 dispatch will move from the public safety building into the new, two-story facility.

“This is a world-class, first-rate facility, and it’s something that we’ve been wanting for a long time,” Horry County Council Chairman Johnny Gardner said.

The $24 million facility features increased space for emergency operations, including bunks, kitchens and a large command center.

“Horry County is a great place to live and a great place to work,” Gardner said. “Today, it’s a safer place to live and a safer place to work.”

The second floor will be the home of the 911 communications center. The new space will have enough desks for 34 dispatchers online at once. The current facility only has space for 16.

Renee Hardwick, Horry County 911 director, said her team’s been looking forward to the move for years.

“The morale is going to pick up,” Hardwick said. “If you’ve been to our existing facility, I have describe it somewhat like a dungeon. It’s dark and dreary and there’s little light. You will see that’s not the case today.”

The building was named after Randy Webster, Horry County’s director of emergency management with more than 30 years experience with the county.

It can withstand wind speeds of 160 mph associated with a category five hurricane while the outgoing facility could not withstand storms stronger than category two. The new building is also the county’s first facility to boast a helipad.

“It’s addressed all the issues that we had in order to make it better for the folks that have to be here,” Webster said.

“It’s an upgrade,” Horry County Fire Rescue Spokesperson Tony Casey said. “Again, it shows that the county’s been growing and this is a response to that growth.”

Construction took a little less than two years. Crews are still working on making finishing touches inside.

“We’re about to go into this new facility and serve the folks of Horry County for years and years to come,” Webster said.

County officials expect the transition between buildings to be complete by the end of November when the team of dispatchers moves in. Horry County 911 administrators should be moved in by October.

County officials added they’ll have a tough call to make should they need to activate the emergency operations center this hurricane season regarding whether they use the new facility they’re still learning about or the existing facility.