Emergency center considered

March 13, 2013

If the county doesn’t use it, the county will lose it.

Commissioners at their regular meeting yesterday were to discuss a $250,000 commitment that would be the county’s “match” for a $700,000 federal grant to build a new Emergency Operations Center (EOC).

The meeting took place as the HCN was going to press.

“The county has already been approved for the grant, but time’s running out,” County Judge Darrell Cockerham said Monday.

The county’s match for the grant could be in the form of land.

County officials have been saying for some time that the current EOC, housed next to emergency dispatch inside the Law Enforcement Center (LEC), is too small.

When mandated preparedness drills are conducted involving a wide range of agencies, the room becomes crowded. The drills, which involve detailed plans for countywide evacuations, are particularly important because of the proximity of the county to the Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant near Glen Rose.

On Monday, Cockerham said that the court is considering building a bigger EOC near its current location on Deputy Larry Miller Drive, or on other county-owned land on Highway 51. He stated that it could be constructed in such a way that the county could do part of the project up front and the rest later.

“We could go ahead and start building it. Let’s use that grant that we got from the federal government and, if we run out of money, we run out of money and we finish it as we can,” Cockerham said. “It’s either do it or give the grant back. And we really need it.”

Precinct 1 Commissioner Dick Roan said Monday that he wants to move forward with building a new EOC and then moving the county’s IT department there. In recent meetings, the court has discussed the need to find better facilities for the expanding communications system.

“It (the IT department) is in the old jail in a building that is practically falling down around us,” Roan said.

“There is a major investment (in the system). We’ve got to do something for those folks because they’re jammed in there, and they have questionable power and limited back-up.

“It’s an old, low ceiling structure that’s just not a good place to have all these electronics.”

Roan said he feels that housing the EOC and IT department in one “nerve center” would be “very smart.”

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