Carroll commissioners approve funding for safety training center

The Board of Carroll County Commissioners unanimously approved allocating an additional $1.7 million toward a new public safety training center after initial estimates fell nearly 40 percent short of the actual cost.

The Board had previously approved $4.4 million for the training center, which includes classroom and apparatus buildings. About $400,000 has been put toward design of the project and the developed plan shows that initial estimates were off.

Commisioners voted Thursday to use funding that was not needed to transition the emergency services system from analog to digital after estimates for that project came in under budget.

The county had allocated more than $17 million for the technology upgrade, but has since learned that its original estimate was about $4 million over, according to Scott Campbell, administrator of the county Office of Public Safety Support Services.

Campbell ensured commissioners that if they pull $1.7 million from the technology project it would not create a shortfall there.

"You are not going to be taking money away that I would need to come back and say 'I need it back,'" he said. "I can assure you that will not be the case."

The 13,000 square foot training facility project, which includes an apparatus storage facility and classroom building, is proposed to be built off Kate Wagner Road in Westminster, where the existing training facility currently sits.

Dennis Brothers, President of the Carroll County Volunteer Emergency Services Association (CCVESA), said he was "very happy" with the commissioners decision, adding that it puts the county training facility back into the 21st century.

CCVESA has advocated for the new facility saying it will increase the number of volunteer firefighters in the county while enhancing training opportunities for volunteers.

The commissioners also agreed to include a $1.1 million auditorium in the bid as an alternative bid item, which would complete the proposed training center project.

Depending upon the bids received the auditorium could be built with the classroom and apparatus buildings or it may have to wait to receive funding in a future fiscal year.

Commissioners President Doug Howard said the cost of the auditorium could also be pulled from the funding available from the radio technology project if county officials are satisfied with a bid they receive.

Commissioner Dave Roush said he was disappointed that initial estimates for the training center were off by 40 percent, but voted for the project because it supports volunteer services.

"The longer we can support volunteer services, the longer the service will remain volunteer," Roush said. "It's a critically important thing for this county, not just in the cost of the service, but in the opportunities for people to engage in community service."

Commissioner Richard Rothschild described the existing training facility as a building "from an era by gone from Little House on the Prairie."

He added that he continues to be concerned the cost per square foot is too high.

"I just want to emphasize my hopes that we will do everything we can in working with these vendors to get these prices down to the absolute minimum," Rothschild said.

Scott Moser, county bureau chief of building construction, said the project will be bid within the next month and could be awarded to a contractor by the end of the year.

Moser has said that material costs have risen and building code standards led to the increased price tag.

County officials ensured the commissioners that the project would not exceed the $6.1 million price tag.

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