Grand Opening for Emergency Operations Center---In the Nick of Time
By Dan Breitwieser, WCJB TV 20 News.
The Gilchrist County EOC went into action less than an hour after the ribbon was cut. It wasn't supposed to be cutting it this close. County officials were hoping to have the building up and running in June. Even if it came over-budget, they're thrilled to have a home if and when disaster strikes.
It took a couple tries and a few laughs but the Gilchrist County EOC is ready for business. It only took 45 minutes for the happy chatter to turn into anxious silence listening to the National Weather Service talk about Tropical Storm Fay on a conference call. It's a place some residents say has been long needed. County officials say they couldn't have asked for better timing to see how the new facility will work, and see what still needs work.
"It's a good test run," says Gilchrist County Public Safety Director Carlos Perez. "This is about as actual of a trial as you can get in the event that we don't get the storm. And if we do, we'll be really ready."
The building design started as just a new fire station. But in the 2004 hurricanes, officials say they realized that the Sheriff's Office Training room wasn't enough. The new structure is designed to withstand a Category 4 hurricane with 160 mile an hour winds.
The fire station has 3 bays instead of 4, in part to cut down on construction costs which were initially planned for 1.2 million dollars and ended up at 1.6, even with building changes.
"By the time we went out to bid, the construction prices had escalated to the point it came back at over 2 million," says Gilchrist County Administrator Ron McQueen. "So we scaled back."
Gilchrist County Richard Esseck says he knew the price tag and came out Monday to make sure he got his money's worth. And the verdict?
"Absolutely," says Esseck. "This is a good place that we got built. I feel a lot safer knowing this is here with the hurricane coming. Hopefully it doesn't hit us."
About half of the 1.6 million dollars cost for the building came through state and federal grant money. In addition, there's about a 300- thousand dollar cost for land surveys and other measurements that were done.
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