McMinn County, Tenn., officials are nearly ready to take bids for construction of an almost 6,000-square-foot, bunker-style 9-1-1 dispatch center that is more secure, has more space for dispatchers and future growth and can fend off Mother Nature at her worst.
The new, partially underground building will be able to withstand the howling winds of EF-4 or EF-5 tornadoes, according to E9-1-1 director Marvin Kelley.
“We’re putting the final touches on the plan as we speak,” Kelley said Friday.The building — 5,832 square feet in the final design — will feature geothermal heating and cooling. That design’s a little more expensive on the front end but it pays off down the road with reduced operational and maintenance costs, Kelley said.
“We’re at six positions [for dispatchers] now and we’re going to increase them at the new center to eight positions,” he said.
The center will be built beside the current one to avoid moving the center’s radio tower, according to architect Sam Moser, of Sweetwater, Tenn.-based Main Street Studio Architects.
Officials hope to build the new center for less than $1 million, and Moser estimated the project will take 10 months to complete once construction starts.
Moser said the new building will be about six feet underground on one end and will be heavily reinforced, with limited access from the exterior. The design consists of exterior walls made of concrete block filled with poured concrete and steel rebar for reinforcement. A roof of concrete planks will cap off the building, and the exterior will be covered with brick veneer.
The center’s control room will be built with the same concrete block, concrete and rebar-reinforced walls, he said. Other building features will include a training room, locker room, quiet room and a break room for dispatchers that will have a view of the control room so employees can see each other in case they’re needed.
Other security measures include a corner entry where officers can talk to dispatchers, deliver paperwork and get warrants from the judicial commissioner on duty, he said. Anyone entering the building past the lobby will have to have a badge to pass through electronic security.
The building’s usefulness should outlive its current director with room to expand dispatcher stations to 12 when McMinn’s population demands it, said Kelley, who was recently appointed by Gov. Bill Haslam to the Tennessee Emergency Communications Board.
“We hope to start moving dirt in the latter part of June or the first of July,” Kelley said.