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October 16, 2013

911 center, tower plans progressing

NEW CASTLE — Lawrence County is considering several possible sites for building a new 911 center and public safety building.

The site the commissioners choose would be centrally located in the county, Commissioner Dan Vogler said Tuesday.

They did not divulge what properties are being considered.

The county’s emergency phone operations center is in the Cathedral now and the county pays rent there of $3,160 per month.

A project to build a new county-owned facility will be done within a budget of about $5 million, according to county public safety director Brian Melcer.

Meanwhile, plans for choosing an architect and proceeding with a design are progressing.

Melcer Tuesday asked the commissioners to extend a contract with Mission Critical Partners by $181,039, to continue with the next phases of a project to build the new 911 facility and an accompanying radio communications tower.

The county had commissioned Mission Critical Partners of Wexford and State College as consultants to conduct a needs assessment for the emergency radio communications system.

The company has been working for the county on those preliminary studies, Melcer said Tuesday.

The next phases will involve implementation of the radio system and evaluating architect proposals to design the new building, Melcer explained.

The county has proposals from six architectural firms for the 911 center design.

The next phases also will involve managing the transition of the technology for the building.

As for where the tower and facility will be built, “we have several targeted locations,” Vogler said, adding that extreme ends of the county — places like New Wilmington, Plain Grove or Enon Valley — will not be considered.

“It will be somewhere in the greater New Castle area,” he said, adding, “We need a tower at the site. That also eliminates part of Union Township, because of the airport being located there.”

Melcer said the $5 million budgeted for the project does not include the cost of the radio tower or improvements. Rather, that budgeted amount will include site acquisition, architectural fees, construction and technology.

Vogler credited Melcer for investigating avenues of potential federal funding through a local congressman. However, with the federal government shutdown, his attempts have been unsuccessful so far.

In May, the county commissioners said the entire project could cost around $17 million and that they would consider a bond issue to pay for it.

At that time, Melcer said the cost for upgrading the radio communications could be about $10 million and would involve replacement of portable and mobile radios and construction of new towers and network.

Also at that time he estimated the new 911 center could cost between $5 million and $7 million.

Melcer anticipates the new public safety building will be up and running by late summer of 2015.

(Email: dwachter@ncnewsonline.com)

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