Scotland County emergency officials have their fingers crossed that they will be granted an extension on a grant received from the Department of Homeland Security for the construction of a new 911/Emergency Operations Center.
Awarded in 2010 and schedule to expire in March of this year, the $650,000 grant is essential to the viability of the project, which would see all of the county’s 911 dispatchers moved to a single building, officials said. Emergency responders from the city of Laurinburg would also be dispatched from the new facility.
County board of commissioner Chairman Guy McCook asked for newly sworn in U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson’s help in the matter earlier this week, calling it Hudson’s “first difficult constituency request.”
McCook said that the one of the biggest reasons that the new facility is needed is the current Emergency Operations Center proximity to the downtown railroad track.
“Our current facility is down within rock throwing distance of the railroad and probably the biggest hazard to this community is the railroad. If we have a big chemical spill downtown, it would not only close all of downtown, but it would close our emergency operations center.”
McCook told Hudson that although the county thinks it has “finally pulled together enough money” to build the center, an extension of the 911 grant is essential.
“The grant we received from the Homeland Security, we have been told that there is a possibility it may not be extended. Without that grant, we cannot build that facility.”
Hudson told McCook and a group of Scotland leaders on Wednesday that he has been selected to serve on the Homeland Security Committee.
“I understand the importance of (your request),” Hudson said, asking to be shown the current downtown center. “We will do what we can,” he said.
According to County Manager Kevin Patterson, there have been several external delays to the project that have made the extension a necessity.
“First it took (Homeland Security) almost a year to release the funds, then we went through process of selecteing an engineering company and we needed eight months for an environmental study to be approved,” Patterson said. The environmental study was needed because of stipulations that come along with the federal funds.
Because of area seismic activity, the county was told that rather than expanding the current EMS facility in Laurinburg, they should build an entirely new structure next to it.
“Then we had to get an entirely new environmental study done,” Patterson said.
Overall the new center will be a $3.5 million project, with $2 million coming from funds from the North Carolina 911 Board. The city of Laurinburg will likely share in the staffing costs once the new center goes live, Patterson said.