Commissioners discuss plans on county space needs

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FARMINGTON — Two new options to provide needed space for the county dispatch center were discussed by commissioners Tuesday before they decided to pass the discussion on to the Budget Committee, which was meeting Tuesday afternoon.

Stephanie Lull of Smith Reuter Lull Architects offered to compile a ballpark estimate of costs for constructing a new building for dispatch. The estimate came out to $724,900.

After three years of exploring several plans for providing better spacing for dispatch, the county Facilities Committee met Thursday to discuss how to move forward. The committee agrees something has to be happen, Lull told commissioners as she summarized a half dozen options already considered.

Two new ideas have emerged, one more permanent, the other a more temporary fix.

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The first idea includes a new, state-of-the-art building at the present county site in Fairbanks. The building would have the capacity for future expansion for other county departments. While providing a secure choice for dispatch, it might also add to a positive decision by the state to keep a local dispatch center in Franklin County, she said.

Another advantage for the new building would be eliminating concerns and costs associated with moving the communications equipment. The local dispatch equipment is potentially up for replacement within one to three years, Lull said. The new equipment could be installed in a new building without the estimated $100,000 price tag to move it.

During construction of a new building, dispatch could remain where it is until the building is finished. Dispatchers could also work without construction and renovation going on around them, she said.

The second option would provide a more short-term fix. The plan includes moving the sheriff’s office into leased mobile units as schools do for classrooms. After securing the present building, locally referred to as the White House, with bulletproof windows and concrete barriers, the dispatch center would fill the White House, she said.

This plan would require less than $50,000 for renovations and not need a county vote, she said.

During last week’s Facilities Committee meeting, firefighters and emergency personnel endorsed the new building plan, according to committee member Greg Roux.

“Dispatch is the heart of the county,” he said, explaining their support for taking care of dispatch.

Either plan would need to be included in the county budget currently under consideration for the upcoming fiscal year.

As a new building would require a county referendum in November, Commissioner Gary McGrane proposed bringing both ideas before the Budget Committee whose nine members represent communities across the county.

After county voters rejected the Church Street Common plan in last November’s referendum, McGrane suggested Budget Committee members could bring the ideas back to their communities, securing public endorsement.

Commissioners were hesitant to make a decision without the support of the Budget Committee or taxpayers.

Budget Committee member John Calloway of Avon suggested tabling the issue until the committee, commissioners and others take the time to walk around the Fairbanks site that houses the detention center and Sheriff’s Department and then sit down and discuss options.

Committee member Neal McCurdy of Kingfield thought taxpayers would support a more permanent option and not endorse a temporary measure. He agreed people would want to step forward, do it once and do it right.

“Dispatch has a need … we need to do something,” Penny Camfferman, administrative assistant for the Sheriff’s Department, said.

abryant@sunjournal.com

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