Emergency command center still not open

The late arrival of an emergency generator unit delayed the opening of Washington County’s new Emergency Operations Center on Davis Avenue in Marietta, but officials say the EOC and the new county board of elections office site next door should both be up and running by the end of August.

The new center was originally expected to be completed by late June.

“I would say the project is 95 percent complete, and we’ve set a target date of Aug. 12 to move in if all of the work is finished,” said County Commissioner Tim Irvine who’s helping coordinate the EOC and election board move. Both facilities are currently located at the Washington County Courthouse.

In the past, either a sheriff’s office conference room or a room in the courthouse annex have been used during emergency situations but they don’t have the space necessary for use by all agencies. The Ohio EMA has been urging each county to have a designated, permanent EOC to use as a communications center during emergencies.

Work on the EOC, which included renovations and electrical upgrades to the ground floor area of the Washington County Children Services building at 204 Davis Ave., was to be substantially completed by the end of June, according to the original terms of an Ohio Emergency Management Performance grant that paid $237,500 toward the project.

But the project was slowed while the county waited on the arrival of an emergency generator and transfer switch.

“The work was just delayed because of our lead time in ordering that equipment,” Irvine said. “But the project is coming along nicely now, and we expect both departments will definitely be in by the end of August.”

Jeff Lauer, the county’s emergency management agency director, agreed, noting the county was able to get an extension of the grant deadline until Aug. 31.

“Originally we had set the June 30 date for completion of the first phase of the project, which included building walls, installing electrical service and some plumbing,” he said, adding that most of that work was done, but the project couldn’t be completed until the new generator and transfer switch were installed.

Lauer also noted bids on the project came in $63,593 lower than the original estimate of $434,900 by architect David Haught, which allowed for the purchase of furnishings and other equipment that would have been part of a second phase initially planned for next year.

“We had planned to buy the furniture and equipment in the next grant cycle, but we wouldn’t have received that award until sometime next year,” Lauer said. “That could have taken at least eight more months. After we received the extension on this grant, and by being conservative with our spending we decided to get everything done at one time.”

He said some savings have been realized by making use of existing laptop computers and other equipment from the current emergency management agency offices at the courthouse.

“We’ve ended up trying to do a two-year project in one year’s time,” Lauer said.

The generator and transfer switch, which arrived earlier this month, have been installed and were connected into the facility’s electrical system this week. A tank of propane which will be used to fuel the generator still had to be plumbed in as of Thursday, and Lauer said the entire installation would still have to be tested and inspected.

Other work to be completed includes telephone system installation and application of a sealant on the tile floors.

Peggy Byers, deputy director for the Washington County Board of Elections, said her staff hopes to soon begin moving into their offices at 204 Davis Ave., Suite B, adjacent to the new EOC.

“August 12 is our target moving day,” she said. “And we’re planning on holding an open house for the election board and EOC in mid-September.”

Byers said there have been some concerns expressed by voters that the election board is moving from a more convenient downtown location at the county courthouse to Davis Avenue. But she also noted that the Washington Morgan Community Action Bus Lines will provide bus service to the Davis Avenue offices for those who want to vote early at the election board office from Oct. 1 to Nov. 5.