A new emergency operating building would be built as a standalone building for the Franklin County operations. The building, if all goes well, would be built diagonally across from the Franklin County Detention Center in Farmington. Port City Architecture rendering

FARMINGTON — Franklin County commissioners voted Tuesday in an emergency meeting to go with a new location on County Way for an emergency operations building.

Commissioners also voted to design the building in a way that it would be able to add county administrative offices if needed. The final design will be dictated by funding sources: If enough congressional funding is approved to complete the project then county administrative offices would not be required as they would be if local tax-increment financing money is tapped into.

Initially, some federal funds were restricted and could only be used to add onto an existing building, so designs called for expanding the current Franklin County Sheriff’s Office rather than building a new structure.

The county has earmarked $1.67 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds toward the project. The federal government has since changed some restrictions on the use of funds for what it terms “low receivers,” those who receive $10 million or less in ARPA funds. Franklin County received about $5.86 million overall.

Originally, the money could not be used for a stand-alone building but instead could be used for an addition to an existing building, county ARPA program administrator Susan Pratt said. With the new flexibility, the county can now have a stand-alone building built, she said.

The new building would be built diagonally across from the jail, in what is now a field. The county already owns that property.


However, if the county doesn’t get an estimated $2 million in anticipated congressional designated funds, and instead has to rely on the county’s TIF agreement for some of the funding, plans would need to be revised to include county administrative offices in the building rather than just expanding for the sheriff’s department, according to county Administrator Amy Bernard.

Congress has not finalized a budget for Fiscal Year 2023-24.

Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Steven Lowell expressed concern that the field area is prone to flooding and the enhanced 911 emergency system lines run through there.

Pratt and Bernard said engineers and architects are aware of those concerns and plan to elevate the area before building.

If the new building is built, the Sheriff’s Office would move into it along with the county Information Technology department and the Emergency Management Agency. It would also have a meeting room for commissioners, unless the county has to use TIF money, which would require relocating some county administrative offices to the new facility. Currently all county administrative offices, aside from law enforcement, are located at the county courthouse.

Had commissioners decided to build onto the current location, it would have introduced some additional issues and limitations because there is a right of way at the back of the property, Bernard said. Nothing can be built on the right of way, which dates to when the Narrow Gauge Railroad was in existence.


“It is a legal easement,” Pratt said.

“We really shouldn’t be putting any parking spaces or buildings on (the right of way),” Bernard said.

It is estimated to cost $60,000 to demolish the current Sheriff’s Office, she said.

The commission would also like to get rid of the large metal containers on site that various departments have been using to store files and other items. One option could be to use the current Sheriff’s Office for storage, which would also save on demolishing the facility.

Additionally, if commissioners opted to expand the current building, it would have been a disruption to the Sheriff’s Office because staff would still have to operate while construction was underway.

The cost for the project is currently estimated at $3.7 million. Estimates for expansion or building a free-standing facility would be similar, organizers said.

With the new building and alternate add-on if TIF funds are needed, the space would be an estimated 8,700 square feet.

In order for the county to secure a contractor, it would need to send the project out to bid by early April when contractors are generally looking to secure work for the year, Bernard said. If it misses that deadline, the county runs the risk of not finding a contractor who would be able to fit the project into the work schedule. Bernard said if Franklin County sends the project out to bid in April it could break ground in June.

In order to move forward, the design needs to be ready and approved in early April, she said.

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