A vote Wednesday by the St. Francois County 911 Board of Directors approving a multi-million-dollar project plan and bid process for the planned expansion and update of the 911 Communications Center in Park Hills was described as “historic” by long-time Director Alan Wells.
The project is being made possible by the passage of a sales tax by St. Francois County voters that went into effect two years, greatly enhancing funding for the 911 service. Prior to the sales tax being instituted, funding for 911 through a landline phone fee had left 911 in dire financial straits.
Prior to the vote, Jerrod Joggerst, AIA, of FGM Architects in St. Louis gave the board a brief overview of the project.
“The project consists of renovating the existing 911 Center,” he said. “That’s about 2,200 square feet. We’re also going to add a new addition to the north and east that’s about 5,471 square feet.
“The project is ready to go out to bid to contractors. It’s going to be advertised in the paper tomorrow with approval and it will be available Friday morning at our print shop in St. Louis. It looks like we’ll get bids back from the contractors Feb. 9 and we’ll open those at the 911 Center.”
According to Joggerst, after bids are received, FGM Architects will perform interviews with all the contractors and then return to the board with its recommendation.
“We’d have a board meeting after that,” he said. “Right now we’re looking tentatively at Feb. 15 to do a special board meeting to give approval on the construction contract. So, the approval would happen then to enter the contract with the contractor and we’re looking at the project starting in March — actually breaking ground in March.
“The initial phase, we’re calling phase one, will be the addition phase. Basically, we’re going to set it up where the contractor builds that part to get it operational so you can move the 911 dispatch out of the existing building into that part and have it going while you do the renovation in phase two. The first phase would go on for approximately eight months — that’s what we anticipate now. The second phase — the renovation of the existing building — we’re looking at three months.”
Joggerst told the board he expects the building project to be completed by March 2018 and construction expenses are expected to total somewhere between $2.2 and $2.3 million.
“It’s going to be a nice facility,” he said. “I know you’ve worked with the current one for a long time.”
Commenting on the project, Wells told the board, “When 911 was put into place and the existing building was built in ’93 when we went live at that time, the population was far less in our county of St. Francois. Our call load was less than half of what it is today in this county alone. So, the existing facility cannot accommodate for the next 20 years the expansion of this county — the growth and the call load. The space will not accommodate the amount of staff and personnel it will take to handle the emergencies in St. Francois County alone.”
Prior to the vote on the motion, board President Ron Bockenkamp addressed Wells, saying, “This really is a significant decision and I don’t think that we can ever appreciate the input that you’ve had ‘mister director’ to get us to this point. You’ve lived with this thing from day one and some of your staff have even been around that long.
“I’m also most appreciative for the role that the staff has played in developing these plans and where we’re about to go. I just think that was a critical component. Sometimes people in your chair feel like they’re the boss and they make the decisions and you have done a superb job in getting buy-in and support from your staff.”
Turning to Joggerst, Bockenkamp said, “Over the years I’ve had to deal with a lot of consulting firms, but I could not be more impressed with the work product that your company has provided this board.”
Following the motion’s unanimous passage, Wells addressed the crowd.
“Again, board and district chairman, audience — this is a big step today that has been taken to improve 911 and public safety in our counties and for our citizens,” he said. “Thank you for the work that you’ve done, the initiative that you have put in place today and for serving the citizens of our county.”
Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or firstname.lastname@example.org
“Over the years I’ve had to deal with a lot of consulting firms, but I could not be more impressed with the work product that your company has provided this board.” — Ron Bockenkamp, 911 Board chairman