Emergency operations center to get new, safer home
March 26, 2010 at 12:01 p.m.
Updated March 25, 2010 at 10:26 p.m.
The existing emergency center is less than 100 yards from an active rail line that carries hazardous materials daily.
It's also near trucks hauling hazardous materials on U.S. 87, U.S. 77 Business and U.S. 59 Business.
The new center would be on an underground electrical grid and it would have a generator for backup power.
A state-of-the-art emergency operations center capable of withstanding 170-mile-per-hour winds could be ready in fewer than two years.
"We're really excited about it," said Jeb Lacey, the Victoria County emergency management coordinator. "This region needs to have a fully functional, survivable advanced emergency operation center."
The joint city-county facility will be in what is now the basement of the courthouse annex at 205 N. Bridge St.
The city and county have been using space in the city-owned 700 Main Center for the emergency operations center. But it is cramped and questions remain about whether it could withstand a Category 3 hurricane, which has winds greater than 110 mph.
Joyce Dean, the county's director of administrative services, said it will cost about $1.5 million to renovate and equip the new center.
The county received a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Dean said. The county also applied for a $455,000 Coastal Impact Assistant Program grant to fund the center.
Because the city and county won't have to construct a new building, Dean said, all of the money can be used for preparing and equipping the emergency center.
The basement has 14,000 square feet, which compares to the 987 square feet in the current emergency center.
Lacey said he's not sure how much of the existing equipment in the current center will be moved to the new location.
"Things change so rapidly," he said. "We'll be starting the process of looking at all the technologies and resources that are available to us today."
The county is searching for an architect now and construction will begin after that process is completed.
The grant requires the construction be completed by 2012, Dean said.
"I hope we have it ready by 2011 at the latest," she said. "It's just redesigning it and using the building as efficiently as we can."
The new center could also serve as a regional facility for seven counties and for state and federal personnel.
"Victoria understands that it is at the center of a region that may suffer a catastrophic disaster and we may lend support in all sorts of scenarios to our neighbors," he said. "We are definitely going to take into consideration when we design this EOC, the potential for us needing to support more regional operations."