Waldo County plans new emergency center

Posted Dec. 19, 2009, at 5:04 p.m.

BELFAST, Maine — The director of Waldo County’s Emergency Management Agency hopes to be sitting in the planned new Emergency Operations Center a year from now.

EMA director Dale Rowley said work on the $492,000 center should begin in June with an estimated completion date of December. The 2,600-square-foot brick building will be built behind the old Waldo County Jail.

When completed, the new EOC will be slightly larger than the Waldo County Communication Center, which is also located on jail property. WBRC architects of Bangor is expected to sign a contract to design the new building this week. The Captain Albert Stevens School in Belfast, the Bangor and Brewer police stations, and the Hancock County Jail are among the public buildings the firm has designed.

“It’s a pretty small, simple building and we wanted someone who had experience with these types of buildings and knew how to work with the Belfast Planning Board,” Rowley said. “If the city knows what we are doing, it’s less likely there will be any surprises.”

Rowley said the center would replace the current EMA office, which is located in the cellar of the former jail. It was built in 1976 and is subject to regular flooding whenever a big rainstorm hits or during the spring thaw.

“We’ve actually had water seeping up through the floor, actually bubbling up,” he said.

Rowley said the office was built underground because the nation was still engaged in the Cold War at that time. The priorities of emergency agencies have shifted since then, he said.

“We’re more worried about hurricanes now than a nuclear attack,” Rowley said.

The project will be funded by a $360,000 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a $12,000 Department of Homeland Security grant, and $120,000 from the county’s reserve building account.

The single-story building will be divided into three parts. One will house the operations center, which will double as a meeting room and classroom; the second part will house the bathrooms and kitchen; and the third section will be the center’s garage and warehouse.

Waldo EMA has a command truck with generators and computers that is designed to serve as a mobile command post during emergencies. The truck, which is presently stored at the Brooks Fire Department, would be kept in the garage-warehouse portion, along with cots, blankets, sandbags and other items needed in case of an emergency.

Rowley said EMA works closely with other agencies and has designated seven county buildings and schools as emergency shelters. Point Lookout in Northport and Bank of America in Belfast are prepared to offer space for emergencies as well, he said.

“If FEMA needed to come in or the FBI needed to come in, we could house them on site,” he said. “A lot of what we do is controlled by agreements with other agencies. We plan ahead and try to find where our shortfalls are and then sign agreements with different entities to meet those needs.”

Along with designing the new EOC building, WBRC will also make a preliminary design of a new sheriff’s office. The sheriff’s department is currently housed in an 1830s-wood frame residence attached to the jail that was where the sheriff lived until the 1970s. Estimates are that the department would need a building on the or-der of 3,200 square feet and that would cost about $800,000.

Unlike the EOC, a new sheriff’s office would need the approval of the county’s voters before construction could begin. If approved next year, it could be completed in 2011, Rowley said.

“This would take the county into the 21st century and get us out of the mid-20th,” Rowley said.

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