Building plans put on hold

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

The city might have to wait until the next legislative session before it receives funding to start any work on a $5.2 million emergency operations facility.

City Manager Joe Thomas told members of the 400 Mitchell Street Task Force that the $350,000 capital outlay request approved in the legislative session was part of several items the governor vetoed in February.

The money would be used to tear down an existing structure on Mitchell Street and design a blueprint for a new emergency operations and communications center, according to Thomas. He said the facility will also serve as a city administration building.

“I’d love to see this happen this year,” said task force member and city commissioner Chris Bryant. “But I don’t see any (other) option than waiting next year.”

Demolishing the existing structure would cost about $220,000 and building the facility about $5 million, according to Thomas. He said the request could be reinstated in next year’s legislative session.

Bryant said the task force was formed last year to find funding to build a new emergency operations and communications center.
Thomas said the need for a new one became apparent after last year’s tornadoes.

“The current facility is not designed to withstand a storm of that magnitude,” he said. “If we were to lose that building (to a storm) we would lose all communications in the county.”

The current communications center is located in the Police station, which also dispatches radio communications for the sheriff’s office and fire department.

Task force member and city commissioner Randal Crowder said there is a small chance the city could include the project in next year’s budget.
“My personal feeling is the community needs to pay for this building,” he said. “It’s going to protect the community.”