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County Considering Options for Multi-Million Dollar Emergency Communications Equipment and Facilities Upgrades

Posted: Monday, July 31st, 2017 at 6:30 am
Author: Sally Y. Hart - KCII News

Photo by Sally Y. Hart

Washington County’s emergency communications needs to upgrade equipment and the facility in which they’re housed.

Friday morning the county communications board met to discuss what the next steps may be in a new facility for 911 operations. County officials are weighing the pros and cons of possibly rolling an emergency communications building into a project to expand other county offices, as many are running out of space. Washington Mayor Sandra Johnson posed the question whether that’d be accepted by residents on a bond referendum vote, “Are hampered by the linkage between building needs for the county and the building needs for emergency communications being in the same footprint. The voters might say, ‘Yes, we will approve a referendum question for the building for emergency management, but the rest of the county needs we’re not willing to pursue at this time.’ …It could be that the entire package would be rejected by the voter and then we don’t have a building for communications.”

Supervisor Chairman Richard Young said one option under consideration is doing a phased project, starting with emergency communications and adding on other county departments later. Supervisor Jack Seward supports doing it all at once, because costs are likely to increase, “If you’re just kicking it down the road you’ll probably end up spending more and probably getting less, than if you would right now. My thought was, if we’re going to spend several million dollars on radios and a building for that, then take that big bite all at once, right now, and think about the future instead of just tomorrow or today.”

Three options have been presented for equipment ranging in cost from $4.6 million to $10.4 million, 911 supervisor Cara Sorrells explains that’s just the equipment not the building cost. Equipment includes radios and towers across the county to increase emergency radio coverage for law enforcement, medical, and other personnel. No official action was taken, more information is going to be gathered and discussed at their next meeting August 9th at 6:30 p.m.