No new home found yet for emergency center

Former Route 32 site among options for facility

February 08, 2004|By Hanah Cho and Ellie Baublitz | Hanah Cho and Ellie Baublitz,SUN STAFF

A new home for Carroll County's emergency operations center has not been found after concerns over tight space and limited security prompted calls for its relocation after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

In 2002, the previous board of county commissioners approved $2.6 million to move the operations center from the County Office Building to its former home on Route 32. But the plan never moved forward.

Today, there is $4.8 million designated for the relocation, including additional funding received in the 2004 fiscal year and a proposed $557,000 allocation in the 2005 fiscal year capital improvement budget, said county budget director Ted Zaleski.

County Chief of Staff Steven D. Powell said Friday that the county has not decided on a site, although a few locations have been discussed, including the center's previous home at the fire training center grounds on Route 32, just outside of Westminster.

"We're not going to discuss sites at this point until we get everything together," Powell said, adding that county staff members are analyzing possible locations.

No firm timeline has been set to find a new home for the operations center, which now occupies part of the basement at the County Office Building in Westminster.

From 1983 until 1996, the emergency communications center was at the fire training center grounds in a bunker-type facility built into the side of a hill. The center moved to Westminster when a new communications system was installed in 1996. When a site is secured, it is unlikely that the location would be publicized due to security concerns. The widespread knowledge that the emergency operations center is at the County Office Building is one reason why county officials say they'll keep mum.

"If and when we relocate the emergency operations center, it's supposed to be a secret. The world is not supposed to know where it is," Commissioner Dean L. Minnich said. "That's not supposed to be general information. I don't understand why people don't understand that. We're in a homeland security situation."

Howard "Buddy" Redman Jr., administrator of the county's Office of Public Safety, said that the emergency operations center has outgrown its space at the Center Street building and that it doesn't have enough rooms for supervisors.

More urgent is that the County Office Building is a public facility in which strangers can wander, Redman said.

"If you want to destroy the County Office Building, you would knock out 911," he said.

Redman said he knows of two locations that are being considered, but he would not reveal them because of security concerns.

"As long as we have security and adequate space, location is not as important," he said.

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