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News Maryland Harford County Forest Hill

Groundbreaking scheduled for Sunday for Harford's new 911 center

Harford County leaders will break ground on a long-desired new Emergency Operations Center building Sunday, the official kickoff for a nearly three-year, $49.1 million project.

The new center will replace the county's existing facility off of Route 543 (Ady Road) in Forest Hill, which has been in use for more than 50 years, Robert Thomas, spokesman for the Department of Emergency Services, said Monday.

It is home to Harford County's 911 center, its Emergency Operations Center, which is activated during disasters, facilities for the county's Hazmat response team and a radio shop.

"It served the taxpayers well, but its life span has now pretty well run its course," Thomas said.

The 116,000-square-foot facility will be built in two phases; construction work for the first phase began in March after the county's Board of Estimates approved a $23.5 million "base contract."

The board approved an updated $28.4 million spending package last Thursday with J. Vinton Schafer & Sons, of Abingdon, which would cover the previously-approved base construction contract, a $10,000 allowance for documentation of the construction process and $4.9 million for the purchase of items for the buildings, which the Schafer firm would oversee as the general contractor.

Those items include furniture for the 911 dispatch center, the Emergency Operations Center and training areas, plus three emergency generators and audio/visual equipment, Ed Maley, senior project manager with the county's Department of Public Works, said.

The Board of Estimates, except member Warren Hamilton, who abstained because he works for Schafer, voted unanimously in favor of the item.

The project will encompass two phases. The main building, which will be built during the first phase, will house the county's Emergency Operations Center, the 911 center and administrative offices for Emergency Services, Thomas explained.

The first phase is expected to be complete by the early fall of 2014. Emergency Services leaders will seek approval from Harford County Executive David Craig and the members of the Harford County Council to place funds in the Fiscal Year 2015 budget to cover the second phase.

The second phase involves building facilities for the radio shop and Hazmat team, in a wing built to the rear of the main building.

Thomas said that if the funding is approved for FY15, the last phase would be complete by December 2015.

Maley said the existing emergency operations building will be demolished once the main building is finished and occupied.

County leaders appropriated $26.3 million during FY13 and $10.1 million during the current fiscal year for the project; another $12.7 million has been requested for FY15, according to online budget documents.

Maley said county officials are seeking up to $4.5 million in state and federal grants to cover a portion of the county's project costs.

Thomas said the new emergency center is being built "with an eye toward the future and the growth of Harford County, the growing number of calls for service, our relationship with law enforcement, the fire fighting community."

He said the existing structure was renovated in 1982 and expanded in 1997. It has a number of issues, including a lack of office space, a leaky roof and problems with the air conditioning, electrical, heating and plumbing systems.

A small fire inside the building July 21 temporarily knocked out the air conditioning.

"It's been a patchwork of additions twice before, and the facility is beyond further patchwork," Thomas said. "It will be razed once the new building is built."

Sunday's groundbreaking will be at 2 p.m. at the Ady Road site; Thomas said the county executive, members of the county council, state legislators, representatives of the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, Exelon Energy, federal officials, Harford County fire and EMS personnel and state and local law enforcement officials are expected to participate in the ceremony.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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